09/08/2013 Newsnight


Where can savers put their money except into property? The cancer cells that live for ever. The mobsters hiding out in Uxbridge. Pregnant pandas - why do we care? With Gavin Esler.

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mattress - should you put your money? With the Bank of England this


week indicating it's likely to keep interest rates low for years and


volatility on the stock market, figures today suggest savers are


increasingly trying to buy one of these. What's the impact on a


debt-riddled economy when savers can't save?


The extraordinary story of the woman who died in the 1950s and whose


apparently immortal cancer cells made billions for the drug


companies. The families claim for recognition


ends in a deal. Why has it taken more than half a century?


Plus New Jersey, Chicago, Brooklyn, and Uxbridge? When did our quietest


suburbs become the hideout of choice for mafia dons?


And who's the daddy? Why the extraordinary fascination with giant


pandas? We're looking in on Good evening. The forward guidance,


as they say in the jargon, coming from the Bank of England this week


is that UK interest rates are likely to stay very low for some time,


possibly until 2016, unless inflation begins to take off. That


is great news for borrowers especially those with large


mortgages but not good news for savers, the people whose thrift, the


Government says, we require for a healthy economy. So are there any


good choices for savers right now? And are the thrifty among us being


penalised for their virtue? Robin Denselow reports.


It is the end of the week. Friday evening at the historic golf club in


Essex. A group of friends get together for a game and a little


parting practice. Three of them are retired. They have paid off their


mortgages and have savings. But what to do with them in a week when the


new governor of the Bank of England gave a clear signal that interest


rates will remain at a mere 0.5% for some time? Jack used to run a fish


restaurant and has money in the bag. But the letters premium Bonds


succeed, his savings are not likely to match the rate of inflation.


have them if anything does go wrong but at the present time it does not


give you encouragement to invest anywhere. This is the embodiment of


the Thatcherite dream of a property owning democracy. 80% of homes here


are owner occupied, the highest rate anywhere in England. The news from


the Bank of England might be good for borrowers and those with


mortgages, but it is not good for those who have worked all their


lives and built up their savings. have a lot of people in this country


who have put money aside over the past few years so that they will


have an estate, something to live on, in their later life. They were


trying to be sensible and prudent, as they were encouraged to be, and


they were hoping to have an income from their savings. They have found


the income has virtually disappeared and what we heard this week is that


even over the next three years it is not likely that they will get any


income at all. But if you have enough money it is argued he can


still make money to put into property to rent out. Buy to let


mortgages made up just 5% in 2002 of all new mortgages. It rose to 12% in


2007 and then fell dramatically when the property market crashed. But it


is now back to the 2007 levels. Would the golfers consider that?


I was younger I would go into it in a big way but it is the young man's


sport. You have to have quite a bit of money because for five years you


the property market is very different. Not so many owner


occupiers. This is buy to let territory. It is argued that if you


have the money to buy a property to let it out, your returns will be far


greater than putting the money in the bank. People with money in the


bank are then getting capital growth at a later date if the markets start


to recover, which they seem to be doing.


There are a large number of properties available for rent here.


An average house costs �152,000 and the average rent �7,800 a year. The


result is a return on that rent of 5.13%, significantly above any thing


a bank can provide. But in order to buy to read, you need enough money


of course. That is no help for savers with modest means. As far as


I can see, policy makers simply do not care about savers helped by the


funding for lending schemes, the help to buy schemes, are actually


going to be those with quite a bit of money. This is about helping


those with lots of money to invest in another property. It is not about


the ordinary average saver. So the message from ethics is this. If you


saved a lot of money, you can make a lot more. If you saved a little, it


will be different. Simon Rose from Save Our Savers is


here along with the former banker and now financial writer Frances


Coppola and Henry Pryor who is a property market analyst and writer.


How tough things for savers? Impossible. It is impossible to


preserve the value of your capital. People have been lamenting that they


have put money buy for all their lives, hoping to eke out their


retirement, and having terrible trouble. It is not as though savers


are the only people missing out. Anyone with a wage is in that


position. Yes, wages are back to the level of ten years ago. Anyone on a


fixed income is even worse. What would happen to the housing market


in this hypothesis? It would come under pressure. Those that have


overextended themselves, and been taken in by the Government and


powers that be, and been encouraged to invest in property, could be left


as many people have a Northern Ireland nursing considerable losses.


They are still looking at losses of 50% or thereabouts in the province


since the crash of 2007. What would the political consequences of that


be, horrendous? Armageddon. That is why regardless of whether the


Government is right or wrong to be doing this, the Government is


determined to put a floor under house prices and make sure they


steadily increase, up to the 20 15th general election. Why does anybody


saving this kind of market? You might as well spend it. I understand


that people might want to spend their money rather than save it.


There are two kinds of savings, what you put away for a rainy day to


cover the washing machine breaking or something like that. I don't


think most people would expect to get much return on that anyway, it


is just a rainy day fund. We are talking about long-term savings, the


kind of money people put away for retirement. People have got used to


having high returns on savings because we have had strongly growing


economy. That is not the case any more. So savers finding the economy


cannot support the kind of income level they have got used to.


Successive governments have always said savers are so marvellous. It is


great to have them. We must rebalance the economy in favour of


saving rather than consumption. But it does not happen. It does not. In


order to get the recovery you need people to spend more, more economic


activity. The value of saving to the economy, quite apart from helping


people to prepare for their futures and so forth, to support themselves


in their retirement, is also so we can get some investment into the


economy, into small businesses, into productive investment. That is


really what we need capital for. But to do that, savers must be prepared


to take some risk. Do you take that point? The problem is we are


undermining savings. Savers have contributed �285 billion, they are


that much worse off, and they are propping up an alien economy that


they are not responsible for. If we have three years more, then savers


will have contributed �500 billion, four times the annual deficit of the


Government. But what about Henry's point, that if things were done to


make you happy, there could possibly be a housing crash? We got into this


crisis because of that and we have continued to stay in debt. We are


now being encouraged to take on even more debt. We are becoming ever more


dependent on this sort of pain relief of low interest rates. We


have now got to the stage where the patient is not being treated. It is


kept on pain relief until it is totally dependent on it. What do you


make of that? I have sympathy for that point of view. Ramping up


consumer debt again is not the way to recover from this. We need


investments and for that we do need people to be putting money aside,


into the economy, investing in business. We need people to be doing


that. Where does buy to let come into this? You cannot just take


savings and buy a house. We are taking people from being savers and


turning them into speculators. The housing market might have a


reasonably rosy short-term view. We respect has prices, especially when


stage two of the controversial help to buy scheme from the Government


kicks in, whereby people can borrow money to buy houses up to �600,000


that are second hand, not just new build as the scheme works at


present, which will add further stimulus to the frothy housing


market and will drive up prices. That is attracting speculators,


people looking at buy to let. It is an alternative to 0.5% returns at


the bank. That is all as it is great and one day it will not be. As long


as the music keeps going, we're happy, but it. . All bubbles


eventually burst. So what should savers do? You want the Bank of


England to do something but what are the alternatives for savers now?


individual savers should get the best possible savings rate. They are


all terrible but some are even worse. Some people took a bonus on


the account, it has gone and they have not realised they are getting


next to nothing. If you want cash savings, not speculation, you are


going to be losing money. Do you see the argument for going into


speculation? I can see why it happens. Savers are getting


increasingly desperate. But inflation, everybody is losing the


value of their money. The pound has depreciated in value one third over


the last ten years. If this carries on, we will get to the stage where


people understand it is not worth hanging on to money at all, and then


we have really serious problems. What can savers do? It depends what


they want to do. If they are saving for the long-term, to my mind money


is not the thing to invest in for the long term anyway. You need to


look at financial and hard assets and things like that. I don't think


buy to let is a particularly good strategy for people that are iffy


about risk, simply because we should not forget the crash in 2008.


Bradley and Bingley actually failed because the bottom fell out of the


buy to let market. It happened before and it can happen again. This


looks like an overheating bubble to me. It needs some care that people


should not be expected to put large amount of money in a bank account


and leave it there by way of long-term savings. It is not a good


use of bank accounts. It is interesting listening to the three


of you, the human capacity for making mistakes over and over again


is enormous. It is bad enough when we do not learn from history but


when it is only six years old, it is really scary. There is no doubt that


this Government is intent on feeding the house price inflation that we


can see coming down over the next three to five years. Commentators


are talking about steady if not reasonably spectacular house price


inflation. Investors, speculators, those looking at buy to let, they


are looking at possible return is not just the yield, which is very


marginal in some parts of the country, they are just investing


purely for capital gain. That is what they are hoping for. Thank you.


Now an extraordinary story about a woman who died in the United States


in the 1950s and whose cells are still being used for medical


research. An agreement has finally been reached in a long running row


about how her cells may be used. The tobacco farmer and mother of five


was just 31 years old when two died of cervical cancer. During


treatment, some of her cancerous cells were removed without her


consent, not unusual for the time. What was unusual was that the cells


from that biopsy did something that scientists had never seen before.


They continued to live and grow indefinitely. The cells seemed to be


immortal. Over the last six decades, these cells have been used


in nearly 75,000 studies to develop treatments for conditions including


polio, leukaemia, haemophilia and Parkinson's. Making healthy profits


for pharmaceuticals companies. But Henrietta's family had no idea of


her legacy until 20 years after her death when they were contacted by


scientists looking for a blood sample. Earlier this year,


researchers in Germany decided to publish the full DNA code. The


family, worried that this could violate their own medical privacy,


took her concerns to the National Institutes of Health, the US


Government agency that oversees medical research. The family asked


not for money, but for some control over scientist access to the DNA


code, which was granted this week. Finally, more than 60 years after


Henrietta's death, it seems her contribution will finally be at


Joining me now from Chicago is Rebecca Skloot who has written a


book about Henrietta Lacks and her family, and was involved in the


negotiations which led to this settlement. This is an amazing


story. How important has this been for medical research, do you think?


Oh, you can't overestimate how important the cells have been for


science. They laid the foundation for so much of what we rely on now.


Her cells were the first ever cloned, her jeans with a first-ever


mapped. Some of the most important cancer medications... The list goes


on and on. They also laid the foundation for lots of basic


science. It is interesting that all of these good things are based on


something which sounds very brutal nowadays, taking the cells from


someone dying of cancer and using them without her permission. Yes, it


was absolutely standard at the time to take samples from people without


their permission. Sometimes much worse. We did not have the concept


of informed consent in the 50s. While it does sound shocking by


today's standards, a lot of what happened was pretty standard for the


day. What was different was when they went back to her children in


the 70s and did research on them without their consent. We did have


consent practices back then. In the 80s, their medical records were


released to the press and published without consent. His latest chapter


of the gene only in released without their consent is just one in a long


line of things that have happened to the family. So what managed to get


them to this agreement? There were several things. The first question


when they found out that this gene had been published, what does it


mean for us? What information is in there? They knew there was


information about Henrietta in there. Her children inherited half


of her jeans and her grandchildren half of those. They wanted to know


what the public could learn about them, what science could learn about


them from looking at the cells. Disease, things like that. But what


we know from history, every few decades something big happens with


these cells. Scientists and up going back and involving Henrietta


Lacks's family, usually without consent. The research has been


looked at over and over. They were also saying, enough. This is the


last time our generation should be the ones that this happens too. So


that our grandchildren are not shocked down the road when it


involves us. Why is that? I know that attitudes have changed, the way


that patients have been treated has changed, but is it basically because


she happened to be an impoverished African-American woman in the 50s


and people thought they could do what they like? In some ways that is


certainly part of it. She was seen in what they called the public


ward. That is where people went if they did not have money or they were


black because this was during segregation. She could not be


treated anywhere else. More research was definitely done in those places


than in the institutions where white patients with money ended up. In the


70s when they did the research on her children, I think race played a


more significant role in some ways. In the 50s they were taking cells


from anyone they could get their hands on and trying to grow them. In


the 70s, had her family been white, not being a black family who did not


have much money, and think the chances are things would have been


pretty different for them. Thank you very much for joining us from


Chicago and telling us that extraordinary story.


News that one of Italy's most wanted Mafiosi has been holed up in


Uxbridge sent us wondering whether the London suburbs really are a good


place for Cosa Nostra. Domenico Rancadore was sentenced to seven


years in prison in Italy and the Italian authorities want him back. A


court today heard that Mr Rancadore used the name Marc Skinner and did


not go out much. Stephen Smith has been to Uxbridge to see how they are


-land, at the end of John Betjeman's beloveds Metropolitan


line. A slumbering dormitory at the western extremity of Western London.


Christine Keeler was the most notorious person to come out of


Uxbridge until now. But it has emerged that the retired


schoolteacher who lived behind his head had been hiding for 20 odd


years. The man the neighbours knew as Marc Skinner was really Dominica


Rancadore, alleged Sicilian Mafia boss. Do you feel that you are


living in an episode of the Sopranos? Not really. He is the last


person that you would suspect. He certainly did not appear to be a


wise guy. People, some say unkind people, have said that Uxbridge is


just about the dullest place in London. So good camouflage? I would


dispute that. Why did think it is that dull here. But you never know,


do you? -- I don't think. He built up the conifer trees and put the big


gate on the front but we always thought he was Spanish and was


trying to produce a little courtyard community around Uxbridge. This chef


is from Elan himself and patrons at this restaurant have been digesting


the news. -- from Milan. Is it semi-glamorous to have someone from


the Mafia living amongst you? Or is it awful and terrible for the


neighbourhood? American culture has probably had a great influence on


how British people see things. The Sopranos, everyone thinks it is sexy


and glamorous to lead a crime boss life. Maybe if they come back and


think about that, they will think it is quite scary to have someone


involved in these very serious things, allegedly, lives round the


corner. The obvious thing is that we do not know our neighbours and that


is the key thing here. I am not saying that people should be careful


and paranoid. I am just impressed, a little, that he has managed to evade


the authorities for such a long time. Marc Skinner, or Rancadore,


was a model citizen as far as his fellow townsfolk new, frequenting


coffee shops, buying flowers at the stall outside the station. He is not


the first person to live a double life you. In 1922, under an assumed


name, someone was living just 100 metres from somewhere near where


Rancadore was living, at RAF Uxbridge. That person was actually


Lawrence of Arabia. If you want to be anonymous, it is a quiet in place


to fade into the background. Westminster Magistrates Court,


Rancadore was served a warrant for extradition to Italy where he has a


conviction for belonging to the Mafia. His wife and daughter heard


that he will be remanded in custody following a full extradition hearing


in November. Uxbridge is in the spotlight now, deservedly so, some


might say. What do we need to know about your town? If there are any


more fugitive Mafia dons out there, please get in touch.


Now here's one for the Jeremy Kyle Show. The father is either the


live-in lover in Edinburgh, who doesn't seem to want to make much


love. Or he is a dead German whose sperm was flown in. Nobody is even


sure if the mother is pregnant. We're talking giant pandas here and


the news that the female Tian Tian in Edinburgh Zoo may be preparing


for the patter of tiny claws. We can go over almost live by panda cam to


her mate in Edinburgh who may or may not be the father. It's not quite


Royal Baby Watch but there's no doubt that pandas are among the most


photogenic zoo stars. But is that a bit unfair to some of nature's more


aesthetically challenged creatures? Helen Arney is a member of the Ugly


Animal Preservation Society, a comedy night with a conservation


twist where she argues that pandas get too much attention and that more


help should be given to some of the less cuddly but equally endangered


species. She joins us now from Edinburgh where she is playing at


the Fringe. This is the biggest news about pregnancy since the Duchess of


Cambridge. But do we care too much about pandas, is that what you are


saying? With no offence to Edinburgh Zoo and the great work they are


doing with pandas, there is much more to the animal kingdom than


black and white bears. I have been watching the band camera for most of


the afternoon and frankly I would rather watch black and white paint


drying. There are much more fascinating animals out there that


are not beautiful. They are creepy, Crawley, ugly, grey, weird, but much


more interesting than the standard panda. You have made the case for


the purple pig nosed frock. We are looking at that now. You would not


buy your children are stuffed one of those four are present. You would


buy a panda. Pandas used to be the underdog. He used to sit around


eating bamboo, unable to do its business with its mate. But it is


not about what they look like, it is what they do. They do very little.


The axolotl is my favourite animal, fascinating. It lives in a single


lake in Mexico and is so endangered. It actually regenerates itself. If


you chop a little bit off, but don't do this at home, it will rebuild it


perfectly. If its skull gets crushed, it will rebuild it


perfectly. Scientists could use this to cure cancer and find out about


ageing. Fascinating stuff. We are looking at a picture of one of them


now. It is one of the most handsome ones I have seen in a long time!


That is actually logistic. Normal ones look like a block of concrete.


But are we missing out on these great animals that are much more


interesting by looking at the cuddly ones? Pandas is the only thing you


think of when you think of conservation, it is like URA DJ who


loves music but only plays Justin Bieber. -- like you are a DJ.


Conservation is not exotic. It is not something that comes from


far-flung countries. The European eel is one of the animals that has


lost 90% of its population in the last 40 years. Its travels 5000


miles. It migrates a huge journey. That is in the Thames. It is not


endangered because people have been serving it up in jelly in East and


restaurants. It is endangered because its habitat is being


destroyed. There is so much more interesting stuff out there than the


panda. The panda has been amazing for bringing attention to


conservation. Of course it is the logo for the WWF. Mostly because it


is black and white and very cheap to photocopy. Indeed! We have an animal


where we spent a lot of money trying to get them to conceive. They don't


seem to be willing or able to do it by themselves. In the end, there is


not much hope for them, is there? be absolutely honest, I think anyone


would have trouble having a full relationship with their partner, who


they have only met recently, when there were cameras on them and they


were living in somewhere completely different to their normal habitat.


You or I would have exactly the same problem. Right, we will avoid the


panda camera. Thank you very much. Let's look at the front pages. The


Times has Robert Mugabe selling uranium to Tehran in a secret deal.


The Telegraph has fetching picture, not of an axolotl but the panda on


the front page. And the panda is also on the front page of the


Guardian. And police investigating 169 sex abuse investigations. A move


to tackle predatory offices. A royal exclusive with the new father


allowed on a stag weekend. And the Daily Mail, the European flag to be


stamped on the UK birth certificate. All babies born in Britain could


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