24/01/2013 Newsnight


Struggling workers in Sheffield; innovation and the invisibility cloak; why it takes so long to adopt a child in Britain; and should women go into combat? With Gavin Esler.

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We ask a photographer who spent six weeks with British women on the


front line in Afghanistan, whether women want to be in combat and


Good evening. In the world in which many of us live, as we'll see in a


moment, families are seeing their household income cut by almost a


five ndge real terms, since the economic crisis began. The


Government's task has been not merely to manage the economy now,


but in their words, to rebalance it for the future, to compete in what


David Cameron frequently calls "the global race against fast growing


economies in the developing world". The Science Minister today


announced �600 million targeted to what he called eight great


technologies from big data and robotics to regenerative medicine


to help turn the clever ideas of British scientists into stunning


new industries, jobs and growth. Ahead of what are expected to be


dismal growth figures tomorrow, we wanted to see what Mr Will its had


in mind. Our political editor has Texture - two or more substances


not chemically united... economy, overdependent on runaway


financial centre ond under- dependent on hard industry.


Coalition - two parties that are not chemically similar but gel


around the same long-term solution, an industrial policy.


The state injects funds into inventions helping them flourish


and eventually hoping they add to the sum of human progress, but also


create some cash. A belief in an industrial policy is not in the


Conservative Party DNA, a belief in the free market is coded for, but


not the idea that the state could intervene in the British economy.


That is until now, and a new breed of Tory politician. They believe if


you can't pick winners, you can pick sector, like the invisible


cloak sector. Harry Potter thought he was special, but soon he will


lose his advantage, when an academic at Imperial College makes


a breakthrough. The Government will give him money to help him make


invisibility more visible. Invisibility for me is a grand


challenge. My work involves controlling light and here at


Imperial College we've developed some new tech jol any -- technology


for controlling light in a powerful way. We wanted to show the world


how powerful this technology was. We thought invisibility, which is


very popular with all manner of people, would be a very good way, a


grand challenge for us to show off our technology. Today, at the


think-tank Policy Exchange, the minister for science, David Willey,


he of the two brains, set out how he wanted to channel money to


others with two brains. The Government will back eight great


technologies of the future. He said there's a direct role for


Government in deciding broad areas of technology to support before


they reach full commercialisation. Who got to be the last poster girl


for the British brains trust? Manchester. Home to the two


brilliant scientists I met this morning, who have just been awarded


the Nobel Prize for physics. Their prize was for the discovery of a


substance called graphene. With graphene it seems we were too late.


One academic think it's should have been picked earlier. If you


consider something like graphene. We won the Nobel Prize. We have a


problem of commercialisation seeking to address here. Whether it


signals a broader change in Government economic thinking is the


interesting and key question. This could be just Willits on his own


pointing to what might be done time prove the commercialisation of


leading science and engineering in the UK. But it could be part of a


broader change in policy. If the commercialisation can be successful,


what could be the gains? The European Commission has estimated


that the money put into research could be multiplied by six-and-a-


half times, with the emphasis on the "could". There will be failure


as much as success. The problem is we've heard so many speeches from


ministers now, I lose count. This must be the 20th from Vince Cable


or David will its. They've been in Government for over two-and-a-half


years and still no proper industrial strategy is implemented.


We know the Government has cut total departmental science spending


in the first year of this Parliament. It's not just what you


spent, it's actually ensuring that what you fund in terms of research


goes on to be developed. Even if they make an industrial strategy


work, it's a long-term strategy. What hasn't material aisles sd


short-term economic growth. This morning the IMF chief


economists said, in his words, that now was perhaps a good time to take


stock of the UK Government's deficit-reduction programme,


perhaps slow down was his message. The EOCD, IMF and EC have all


predicted that the last quarter of 2012 will see a contraction of the


British economy. But the real thing is published tomorrow. Government


sources are braced for, in the words of one, hideous figures.


Today the Deputy Prime Minister admitted mistakes had been made in


the Government's economic stratd ji, that there could have been more


capital spending in the early days, instead of the cuts to that budget.


Hydrogen - H plus one... Invisibility clobgz, chocolate


biscuits that don't melt, but if necessity is the mother of


invention, what this Government needs is a damage tote speed up


economic recovery. David Willits joins me now. You say


that the 1980s made us very wary of governments trying to pick winners.


You are picking winners in the sense that you're talking about


eight great technologies that you think will work, that would be


winners. Yes. We can't be sure they'll be winners, but Governments


do have to decide and set priorities. We're trying to tackle


one of the fundamental problems in the economy. We have excellent


science, but we stop funding it when it's too far short of the


market. Then we beat up ourselves and say we don't take risk. The


fact is when I go to America, I see there, federal agencies that


support science much closer through the development of the technology,


closer to market, when of course, individual companies take over and


there's no role for Government in backing those individual companies.


Recognising market failure in this country is the key to it -- to it.


I'm recognising the Valley of Death between the great theoretical ideas


in the universities and research labs and the commercial application.


The Government is saying there's absolutely a role for Government in


helping ideas closer to market and as you can't be indiscriminate, you


have to identify the technologies that you think have the best


chances of success. This isn't my personal whim. This stkraus on the


expert advice that scientists whose advice we published. But it is a


big bet. There may be eight other great technologies out there that


others have not come up with. It may be unlikely that however big


the brains, any Government committee is going to come up with


If you look at what happens in America, you will see that in


Stanford, there was federal funding that initially got funding, not


because the federal Government backed a particular company, but it


was far more adventurous in the way it supported IT, and the way the


defence department backed start-up company using IT in innovative ways.


We in Britain should not be so paralysed by the fear that


sometimes we get it wrong, sometimes we will get it wrong. And


not do anything. It is worth a go, it is worth identifying these great


technologies, emerging from our science labs and bringing them


closer to market. It is tax-payers' money you are having a go with, at


the same time as just has been said, you are cutting science budgets?


That is not true, we have offered cash protection to the current


science spend. We did inherit from the previous Labour Government big


planned reductions in capital spending, what we have been doing,


in the past two years, is reversing those cuts. We have put in an extra


�1.5 billion. There is a reduction in science spending, and David


Cameron talks a lot about this global race, he may very well be


right in that, aren't we losing the global race, China overlook us in R


& D spending in 2005 and France, and now America, you have made the


case for. We are pretty slow? of the things I set out today is I


think we have competitive advantages, we have great science,


we have an extraordinary history of great science, we still have


brilliant technologies. What I'm saying is if Government,


researchers and business come together, we can back them. I think


that includes going to the challenge of the Sheffield


programme discussion you are going to have, it includes the challenge


of manufacturing coming back to Britain. Remember, we are now, for


the first time since the mid-70s, we are a net exporter of motorcars,


we are second in the world in Aerospace, we can do these things.


We are waiting for the growth figures tomorrow, it might be


George Osborne that needs the invisibility cloak. When you have


the IMF chief economists saying slower fiscal consolidation may be


appropriate. He's suggesting that actually it is political


stubbornness that is stopping Mr Osbourne from thinking again?


you inherit one of the biggest budget deficits from any modern


European country, you have to take small steps, it is happening over a


period of several years. Nobody is saying you could avoid bringing


down the budget deficit. We have to use our limited resources smartly


one of the smart ways, where George Osborne, myself, Vince Cable, want


to spend that money, is backing the technologies. They are not all


going to work, but some of them, in ten years time, will be proviegd


the jobs and prosperity we need -- providing the jobs and prosperity


we need. You have made that point clearly. Nick Clegg is saying in


House Magazine, that the Government cut capital spending too much and


too early, he might be smart on. That do you think you got it wrong


at the start of the term, you cut too hard? I remember our


discussions of this in cabinet, the Chancellor was clear in the very


first spending decisions, he wasn't going to add any further


reductioned to the plant -- reductions to the plant capital


reductions from the last Government. He has actually added back capital.


The reason I have �600 million to invest today in science capital is


in this Autumn Statement, the Chancellor reduced current spending


in order to put �5 billion more into capital, including science


capital, that is the correct judgment. The point may be, that


one definition of economic madness is to keep doing the same thing and


expect a different result. It is clear they are signalling that you


should think again? The overall budget judgment is absolutely clear


that we have to carry on, on the steady programme of bringing the


budget deficit down. Of course that's painful, but it is necessary,


and it is one of the reasons why we have historically low interest


rates. Then, within the almost half of entire national spending, it is


right to use it as productively as we can, that involves getting a


grip on welfare bills, instead investing in education and science.


That is what we are doing. We will leave it there.


Whatever the plans for the future and the new ideas for a new


industrial strategy for the 21st century, many people have a


different priority, survival. Many of us are struggling with falling


real wages and rising prices, plus the uncertainty of an economy where


there are jobs beg created, where, as we hear from Sheffield and Paul


Mason, they might not last long. Welcome to the age of uncertainty.


At the moment what we have is an economy, we will probably find out


tomorrow morning, that is not growing T will be lucky if we are


flatlining, it maying that the last three months of last year were


again a dip, and we are in the middle of what could be a technical


triple-dip recession, and yet this economy is capable of creating jobs


hand over fist. Half a million in the past 12 months, 90,000 in the


past quarter. Now, this is a conundrum. There is a debate that


goes on about why it exists. I want to put a kind of shape to it, with


the ninth great technology of the country which is the Newsnight


graphics. This is the level of GDP through the crisis, you see the big


dip in 2009, and the failure to recover to where we were. This is


five years of pain, technically longer than what happened in the


1930s. Let me now superimpose that the percentage of employed people,


this is a different left-hand scale, this is percentages, it starts at


72. The shape is important, you see like-for-like fall in the scale,


but the recovery is only just happening. That is what is really


going on. Look at the steepness of that pink curve at the end. That is


a real recovery. There was a time when some of the Government's


critics said this is an illusion, this is real. What does it create


economically? When you go down to the gran later level, and you ask


people -- granular level, when you ask people on part-time, part-time


contracts, giving back a lot of their work place benefits, as we


are about to see, giving back some of their wages, and what interests


me at the microeconomic level is the way this is beginning after


five years of pain to change people's perception of what the


possible future for them s and wait they are starting to consume and


even think about work. We went to Sheffield for a couple of days, the


capital of electropop, and still manufacturing, as you can see.


They call it flatlining, growth, like the temperature, struggling to


stay above zero. For many families it is worse than flatlining. People


in Sheffield have lost 19% of their household income in the past five


years. It seems to be hitting everyone quite hard, you notice it


in all sorts of sectors ts on the news all the time. Lots of chains


and businesses going bust and having problems. It is all around


you. Sheffield is a city where they


still work with metal, big chunks of it, though now it is precision


cut. People here know this is where the


economic recovery is supposed to be. Driving exports, jobs, higher


skills. But the firm had to make 70 people


redundant before Christmas, and the rest were forced to take a week's


unpaid leave. So everybody is worried about the future.


You have given up a week's wages, how did that feel? We are not happy


about it, but we have had to do it just to cement our jobs. I went on


holiday and I came back, and I found out the day I got back that


lucky I hadn't lost my job. How old are you? 28. So probably the last


five years of your working life things have been tough, when will


we see an end to this fairly flat, stagnant conditions? I'm hoping, if


I'm realistic I can't see it any time soon, a few years. At the


moment a lot of our business in the offshore wind energy business is


export business. Henry Sherman has built this company rapidly, even in


the face of financial crisis. They make armoured cars, wind farms, big


stuff, in general, he knows places like this are supposed to be


driving the recovery, but it is tough. We had a very strong first


half, in the second half it fell away dramatically. Unfortunately we


had to lay people off, we don't like doing that, it is very


difficult. We had to cut costs, reduce all our expenditures in


order to keep the business as tight and surviving as it is. That's


supposedly in a period where we thought we were coming out of


recession? It was, there were a few little glimmer of light on the


horizon. But 2013 is looking quite challenging.


The fact is, the hard figures for GDP and exports don't begin to


capture the full story. Wherever you go, people tell you about


struggling, surviving, adapting, holding on. After five years of


crisis, all this gets harder. What is shipping like as an economy --


what's Sheffield like as an economy? I personally think there


are no jobs, the jobs there is are not flexible, when you are offered


the job the hours are very long, you either accept it or you don't.


It is not like before where you could actually negotiate a job. Now


you can't. It is hard to measure insecurity,


but whether it is the factory or a Surestart centre, that is what


people talk about. Without this centre, neither of these mothers


would be able to hold down jobs. Though they are both white collar,


both are juggling childcare and work, and it is getting harder.


People are grateful for the jobs they have got, and have to shuffle


their lives around it, because you can't turn work down. Of course the


shuffling doesn't show up in any economic figures? No. I think


people have managed very well, in terms of shuffling their lives


round. I have got friends that work opposite shifts to their partners


so they have not had to pay for childcare, because that is not


something that they can afford to do. But, I think there is a lot of


people are really hoping that there is an end in sight, because they


have really struggled. What this tells us, is that


relentless flatlining, year upon year, is changing the way people


think, and act, and spend. There are jobs, but no security, wages,


but no wage rises. Everybody's worried about redundancy, and the


old drivers of growth are gone. It is hard, I mean the house is


rented, we would like to buy it. As first time buyers at the moment we


stand absolutely no chance of getting a mortgage. Spencer got


made redundant four times in five years before getting his current


job, running a lighting company. Laura is in the training business.


Do either of you see an end to this period where jobs are at risk,


where the company might not be there, or is that the new normal?


think it is the new normal. You see it every day on the news. You just


don't know, it is like if your job gets put as risk, you are never


secure in finding, even if you go to a big-named company, there is no


big-named company any more. I would like to think we are going to come


out of it, and things will get easier. I don't think they will


ever go back to what they were. In Sheffield, they know all about


recessions, they lived through steep downturns in the 1980s and


1990s. This one is different, the gloom may not be deep, but it is


relentless, what they want to know here is when it will end.


Well there are a number of puzzling things about a stagnant economy


creating jobs, and watching Paul Mason's report with me were the


labour market economist, John Philpott, John Wastnage from the


British chambers of summers, and my other guest.


You see some of this up close, what sacrifices are people making in


order to keep things together in this kind of economy? They are huge,


I know a mum called Nina who has five hours a week, one hour a day


in the school playground, she has four children, does a fantastic job


bringing them, she's chuffed to have a job, but it is five hours a


week. Obviously she's putting that in with her benefits and juggling


to make ends meet at the end of every week. My question is, what


happens when she wants to buy two pairs of school shoes for the


children, or pay for a school trip they have to go on, where is the


extra money. She's being paid very little above the minimum wage.


do you make of the argument that a job is a job, she obviously wants


to do it and be active in the work market. She wants, presumably a


better job, but it is better than not working? That is debatable,


because her pay isn't enough to be able to ride her through the


circumstances she's finding herself in. Part of her income comes from


benefit as well, that has to be balanced. The question is, what


happens when there is extra expenditure, what about a hole day,


what about the extra things. How do you -- a holiday, what about the


extra things, how do you pay for doors for Christmas, you go to the


payday lender. I can't tell you how many people are afraid of what the


knock on the door will bring, and pay the doorstep lender rather than


their rent, because they are afraid. We saw whole communities in the


1980s blighted by various things. It is almost like a low heamorrhage


now? It is much more dispersed, lots of people are feeling it,


rather than it being concentrated in particular areas. I think the


key is that because we haven't had the rise in unemployment, that a


lot of people, myself included, were expecting, it is almost a


sense as though things are slightly better this time. But I think as


Paul's film showed, there is an underlying crisis of insecurity,


and that's a symptom of an on going economic malaise that doesn't seem


to be getting better very quickly. We have had essentially five years


now of the age of insecurity, and we have on top of it the age of


austerity, and how long it will take to get out of that I think is


something that is taxing a lot of economists. Insecurity is difficult


to measure, but you know when you see it. I wonder what about the


different kinds of employment, we have heard of people just making do


with short-term working, zero hours working, what about self-employed,


a lot of self-employment? Self- employment is one of the big


stories of the recession. Until recently the number of employees


have been falling, but we have seen on going rising in self-employment.


A lot of this new self-employment is very different from the sort


that we saw in the past. A lot of it is unskilled, in particular a


lot of the new self-employed are working relatively short hours.


These are people who would, ideally, prefer to be employee. They can't


get jobs, and essentially declaring themselves a self-employed person


so they are not unemployed. Because that could 0 make them look


unattractive to future employers. Of course, it means that they have


very limited incomes. It flatters the labour market statistics,


because it makes things look better than the underlying reality it is.


How bad is it for businesses to survive, we saw the sacrifices


people were making to keep a job, working for nothing a bit to help


out the employer who wants to keep people on? Employers are finding it


very tough as well. Uncertainty is the new normal, not only for


employees but employers, they are desperate for that confidence that


is going to allow them to grow. As you heard from the MD, it is never


nice to make people redundant, but sometimes it is necessary. What we


have seen in this crisis that has been different from previous crises,


is a really flexible labour market, that has allowed the pain to be


spread a bit more evenly, and has kept more people in work, which has


to be a good thing. Obvious criticism is, it means low-pay,


people doing skilled jobs, and really not getting the rate for the


job. What would happen if an employer like that had to pay what


people are asking, and what they would need to keep pace with


inflation? If an employer had to pay for more their labour, you


would find they would employ fewer people, or they would look to


automation in more cases to replace labour.


I know you want to come in on that, one of the things that struck me


about the film is people thinking when is it all going to end? Where


is the hope? What is the next thing? That is hugely important. If


you are struggling to put the food on the table each week, and you are


wondering, the stress of getting your children to school and to hold


down a job, a shift job, that constant stress, week after week


after week, has an effect long-term on your health, and your well being.


It is great news that there are extra jobs, and employers and small


businesses are flourishing and finding ways to employ people, what


has been better news is some of the big institutions, Government


departments, the Department of Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith has


announced they will pay the living wage, that is �7.35 nationwide,


much higher than the minimum wage. That makes a significant difference


to working families. What do you think might bring this to an end


finally. People want to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and


it keeps getting longer? I agree with some of the things that John


was saying. I'm worried about this terminology of the "New Norman", it


implies there is an inevitability about this we have to accept. If we


had -- The "new normal, it implies there is an inevitability about it


and we have to accept. If we had this retraction there would be a


sense of national crisis, without the jobs, but because the labour


market has come out OK people are thinking that it is OK and we can


adapt to it. But the economy is flatlining, and something ought to


be done about it, what that is has to do in part with a much more


aggressive fiscal policy. As the IMF were saying, we should be


slowing down the austerity. We agree with the Government's


deficit strategy, we would like them to repriorise the spending,


rely on more house building, and leveraging into infrastructure


projects, making it easier and less risky for businesss to take people


on. And finances for small and medium-sized businesses. Can I say


in the poor communities, what I have come across, going into


Christmas, pawning your children's toys to put food on the table. The


new normal, if the wages are so low, is this the sort of economy we want


our children to be brought up in? Where they hardly see their parents


because they have to double shift and the aspiration is to low wages


and a low standard of living. Is that a good enough new normal for


Britain? The children's charity, Barnardo's estimates that 7,000


children in this country are awaiting adoings, the highest


figure since 2007, the one thing they are looking for is a loving,


caring family environment. Many would-be parents are looking for


children to adopt, why, do you ask, can it take up to four years to put


the child and adoptive parents together. When the Government asked


that question, one answer they came up with was too much bureaucracy in


local councils in England, today the Government announce those


councils may be striped of responsibility for adoption if they


don't improve. The first years of our life are a


time of exploration, learning and development. But for thousands of


children they are a period of trauma and waiting.


Last year 3,450 children were adopted. But their wait is a long


one, spending on average two years and seven months between leaving


their birth family and arriving with their new one. That includes


11 months in care before it is decided they should be adopted, and


another 11 months to match and place the child with adoptive


parents. And then another nine months before the actual adoption


takes place. Today the Government repeated its


desire that more children should be adopted more quickly. In their


sights, 150 local councils, and the threat that if they don't improve,


they will be striped of their involvement in the adoption process.


For the Government, it's a political agenda tinged by the


personal. Education Secretary, Michael Gove, was himself adopted,


and has told how his birth name was Graham, while his junior minister


Johhn Timpson, has two adopted brothers. The older a child gets


the longer they wait to get placed. Six-year-olds wait almost four


years before adoption, and it can be a long road for adoptive parents


too. Of those that come through months of screening, almost half


still don't have a child seven months after being approved.


This man, whose identity we have kept anonymous, has adopted two


children. He told us that the adoption process is a labourious


one. From day one, to the day the court


signed off our daughter, I think it was three years. It was probably


two-and-a-half years before we knew a child was matched to us, then it


was another six months before there was formallised by the courts. They


would come every Wednesday evening, inbetween you had homework to write


about, how was your family, do you have any problems with your family,


do you get on with your brothers and sisters. They went through the


whole family-type things and close things. They ask you some pretty


personal questions. Do you still have sex, how many times do you


have sex. My friends are asked do you still use sex toys, completely


inappropriate questions, I think. It started going into your opinion


on multiculturalism, and homosexuality, your view on a range


of topical issues, I don't know how important those really were,


without a doubt it is worth the grief, however ridiculous and time-


consuming the system is. It is worth it, because you get so much


more out at the end of it than you could wish for. There could be


happier parents and safer children around if more people were adopting,


so yes it is worth the hassle, there shouldn't be that hassle.


Local authorities are responsible for 90% of all adoptions, but the


Government believes they are only doing what they have to do by law,


meeting demand in their local area. They say some potential adoptive


parents are being turned away, because they are not needed locally,


irrespective of the national demand. The Government wants training to be


outsourced for adoptive parents, saying it will make the system far


more efficient. But councils point to an increase in the number of


children adopted in the last 12 months. This is a shared issue, it


is not just something about Government, but councils are


getting on with their part of the problem, by improving the number of


children approved for adoption. We have to make sure the bits in the


Government's hands, around the national adoption gateway, and the


bureaucracy which they Prom my today address are done quickly. --


promised are addressed quickly. We are still waiting. Today the answer


today for the Government could be the 30 organisations who adopt


parents. We are encouraged to have working relationships with the


local authorities to work together, to maximise the chances of placing


these children, to encourage more people to come forward to adopt. As


a result, together, if we have more people coming forward to adopt, we


hope that more children will be placed. The monies that we get,


either as a local authority, or as a voluntary sector, will help us


achieve that. Today's announcement is not an


isolated measure, as well as trying to reduce the time it takes, they


want to less importance attached to matching a child with adoptive


parents of the same ethnicity. According to Barnardo's, a white


child is three-times more likely to be adopted than a black child. The


report makes no hiding of the -- The question is, whether for the


thousands of children waiting to be adopted, it is a necessary risk.


Debbie Jones is President of the Association of Directors of


Children's Services and head of Children's Services in Lambeth. Do


you accept there is a problem, that there is something wrong when there


are 7,000 children who would like to be adopted, but can't be, and


some of them are waiting two to four years to find the right


parent? Within the sector we absolutely accept that there is a


problem. It can never be right for children to wait longer than they


need to, to get placed with the right family. Where is the


bottleneck, the implications that Government is suggesting is some


local council, some local areas are aslope, and they are not getting on


with it? The process of adoption is a long and a complex one, adoption


is probably one of the most difficult but most important


decisions that you are ever going to make for a child. So making sure


that it is a once-only decision is the most important thing. That


means it needs to be done carefully. In the right amount of time. Not


too much time. With some councils, it is absolutely true, it is a


statement of fact, that it takes too long. We recognise that, we


would never...People Understand that social workers get it in the


neck, if you act quickly or slowly and so on, but there are some


parents who are found to be, potential parents and adopters,


found absolutely fit and it takes another seven months to put a child


with them. That seems odd, if the parents are OK, obviously you have


to match a child to parent, where is the problem? The process of


matching the right child to the right family, has to take the


length of time it needs to take. If it takes two years, that is too


long. If it takes three months and you get it wrong, that is even more


wrong. But, you work with some of these Voluntary Organisations any


way, they are good organisations, you accept that. If there are these


problems, why not rely on them to help speed things up? I understand


you think of it as a bit of a threat, but maybe that is what's


necessary? We're actually working very closely both with Government


and the voluntary sector. In order to introduce the radical reforms


that Mr Timpson was talking about today. That is the minister for the


Department of Education. Yes, we have been working with them, as


councillor Simmons was saying for the last 12 month. A number of new


initiatives are being introduced, which includes the Adoption Gateway,


reducing that dreadful bureaucracy that colleagues have complained


about. Do you see this as some kind of big stick, I noticed the


councillor quoted elsewhere as saying this could adversary impact


on parents and children, a disjointed and confusing system. It


may be a spur to get on with it? The threat of taking away the power


to recruit adopters, we see as an incredibly blunt instrument, that


could destablise the current system. As you have heard, we currently


have something in the region of between 4,000 and 7,000 children,


waiting for adoptive families. What we don't need is the system in


chaos while we change and reorganise. Surely what we need to


do is build on the best, build on the best practice in local


authorities that are doing it well, build on the best partnerships with


other local authorities, with the voluntary agencies, in order to


ensure that we build economies of scale, and make it work. What we


don't need is a ministerial Sword of Damocles, hanging over our heads.


That is how we see it. What it will do is create uncertainty in the


sector, it will be demoralising for staff doing it well, and actually,


at the end of the day, what we are all concerned about is finding the


right homes for children, because at the end of the day, Gavin, those


children that wait the longest are often those children with the most


complex need. You cannot afford to get it wrong for any child.


The United States military is, for the first time, to allow women to


serve in combat roles. This will strengthen the US military's


ability to win wars, according to the Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta,


it will remove what President Obama calls, unnecessary gender-based


barriers to service. More than 150 women in support roles in the US


military have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Already critics


have questioned whether women have enough strength or stamina, and


also whether mixed united in combat might prove difficult to manage.


For women American soldiers, fighting on the frontline of one of


the last barriers to equality. next greatest generation will be


one of men and women who will fight and die together to protect this


nation. That is what freedom is all about. In Australia, Israel,


Germany and Canada, women can already take on combat roles, that


is not the case in Britain. Here, they make up about 10% of our Armed


Forces, that is around 17,000, but soldiers like these ones


photographed in Helmand Province last year, are still restricted


from joining the infantry or face- to-face combat. The last time the


policy was looked at was 2010 then the MoD decided women were


physically and psychologically capable of doing combat jobs, but


there wasn't evidence that changing the policy was worthwhile. With the


frontline becoming more blurred, even without those changes, more


and more women are ending up in harm's way.


The photographer who took the photographs there is with us, she


spent six months with troops in Afghanistan and she spent 12 years


with the RAF. We will run more of those photographs as we talk. In


terms of the roles women do now, what sorts of things do they do now,


and do they do things only women could do in Afghanistan? One of the


things I noticed in Helmand, and why I did the project, is the


female soldiers I worked with were female engagment officers, they


could only be women, because they were working with other Afghan


women, and going out and meeting them. The interesting thing about


that, to achieve that they had to go out on patrol with infantry


soldiers, so there was the two dynamics there. They are doing it


any way. And facing all the same dangers in many cases as the men?


Yes, of course. It was your sense that many of them would be prepared


to fight, that was why they joined up and would like to be in a combat


war? I don't think it is why they joined up. The reasons why people


join the military is not to kill people. That is very important to


say that. But also the girls themselves are very, very capable


individuals, and quite physically fit as well. I think they would


have been relied on in any situation out on the ground to do


what they needed to do. Let me tell you some of the things being said


in the United States about the plans. That women don't have enough


upper body strength, and the stamina and physical stuff. What do


you think about that? There is a element of truth in the upper body


strength, that is a physical thing you can't deny. I saw examples of


physically strong women in Afghanistan, I met one girl who


could do more pull-ups than most of the enm. It is down to individual


attributes, if a girl is strong enough, maybe she should have been


given the opportunity. What about the more cultural things, that


mixed units are difficult to manage, perhaps, and particularly in combat.


We don't permit mixed football teams, women play football and it


is great, and men play football and it is fantastic and all that, you


don't let them play together, it just doesn't work? In Afghanistan I


witnessed men and women working together in very high-pressured


environments, on the frontline, and I didn't ever see a problem with


that. I didn't see any outward displays of discrimination between


the guys and the girls. I think it was all down to team spirit,


cohesion and working together to get the job done. That is really


what I saw. What surprised me the most, actually, I almost assumed


that a girl on her own in a patrol base would maybe be subjected to


that, but I didn't actually see any of that myself. I think they


adapted really well. Were the men a problem? Men are always a problem!


Do they have problems with this idea, it is a man's problem?


can't speak from a man's point of view, but I do speak to men in the


military. I think there would be a split on whether men would agree


whether or not women should be on the frontline. I have asked men


working alongside a girl, like as a medic twice a day, they see her as


part of the team and the patrol. They don't have an issue with


gender, as long as you can do the job there is no problem. I wonder


if Britain is a bit slow on this, maybe we are stuck on the mud,


there is quite a lot of militaries who do it, it used to be famously


the Australians, but a lot of military organisations are trying?


I can't speak on behalf of the MoD, I don't know what their policy is


on all of this. I do think that women are involved in the military


since the Second World War, it is not a new thing, really. I think it


is very interesting that the US are now making it legitimate for women


to be on the frontline. It would be interesting to see how that plays


out. I definitely will be following that very closely. Another lot of


photographs. Thank you very much for sharing your photographs as


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 45 seconds


well. That's all for tonight. If you are


feeling a bit chilly this winter, spare a thought for the people of


Chicago, where last night it was so cold that when firefighters put out


a blaze in an abandoned building, the water froze and turned it into


# Fire and ice # I want to give you my love


# You just take a little piece of my heart


Still cold weather to come through Friday, milder but wetter there


after. You could see the first signs of rain coming into the


western part of UK by the end of tonight. As it moves into the


colder air, turning readily into snow, ahead of it a cold day across


much of England. The wind freshening up, that will make it


feel pretty bitter. Grey skies not helping with the feel of the day.


Further west, look at the difference, rain across Cornwall,


temperatures of seven degrees. Rain rather than snow pushing into the


western parts of Wales. There might be sleet on the lead edge and wet


snow over the hill. North Wales more likely to see a spell of snow.


It will turn back to rain. Definitely into the milder air,


during Friday across Northern Ireland, six or seven degrees, a


wet-looking day. The rain moves across the colder weather across


Scotland, turning readily to snow, disruptive know potentially, that


could be a problem through Friday afternoon and evening, across part


of England as well. By Saturday, look at the way the temperatures


jump up. Six degrees in Edinburgh, we haven't seen that for a while.


Birmingham beginning to creep up. The mild air coming from the


Struggling workers in Sheffield dealing with a drop in living standards; innovation and the invisibility cloak; why it takes so long to adopt a child in Britain; and should the MoD let women go into combat? With Gavin Esler.

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