16/01/2014 Newsnight


Is the Abortion Act fit for purpose? Minimum wage rise; Vince Cable; anti-gay legislation in Nigeria; Oscar nominations; and sunspots.

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It is almost half a century old. But is the Aorganisation Act fit for


purpose in the modern world. With abortion going ahead on the basis of


gender, we will debate whether it is time to update legislation.


Tomorrow Ed Miliband will give us a clue as to how Labour will run the


economy. Today George Osborne tried to get in his pre-emptive attack.


Tonight, what does Vincent Cable think? The UK gives Nigeria hundreds


of millions in aid. So why have we been unable to prevent antigay


legislation coming into force there. I fear for my family and my friends.


I fear for every ordinary lesbian, gay, transsexual, transgender people


in Nigeria. And it is a very exciting time if you are a solar


scientist, because the sun has fallen asleep. What difference will


that make to predictions of rising global temperatures in the future.


Good evening, in 1967 in an attempt to end backstreet aorganisations, a


law was introduce -- abortion, a law was introduced in England Scotland


and Wales, almost five decades later, 185,000 terminations were


performed. Including a minority including women who had one because


they were expecting a girl. According to the Independent


Newspaper. Some campaigners say the Abortion Act is no longer fit for


purpose, and needs updating. It comes at the same time as figures


obtained by a Conservative MP, a member of the all-party pro-life


group, shows that in nearly half cases doctors sign off abortions


without having met the woman whose termination they are approving. The


1967 legislation requires two doctors sign a consent form "in good


faith", but it doesn't require face-to-face assessment. For nearly


five decades the 1967 Abortion Act has remained relatively unchanged.


Increasingly on both sides of the debate there are calls for reform.


Even the law's architect says it is out of date. In 67 the only method


of abortion was surgery. And that is no longer the case. Also the law in


the rest of Europe has changed and most of our European neighbours


allow a woman's right to choose up to about the 13th week of pregnancy.


That we don't allow. There are two major issues which I think need to


be addressed. What would concern you most do you think about revisiting


that law? My anxiety about an inquiry is that those who are


campaigning against abortion all the time will want to try to use it to


restrict the law. And that would be a mistake. The 1967 act doesn't


state explicitly that abortion is a woman's right. Instead the law says


that two doctors kittying in food faith -- acting in good faith can


permit a termination when it is in the medical interests of a pregnant


woman or her unborn child. That wording is just as contentious today


as the day it was written. Abortion rights campaigners say the language


smacks of 1960s paternalism, a "do knows best" attitude, saying women


are incapable of making this decision in a serious way. We would


say there is room for it to be extended so it trusts women to make


the decision. At the moment women need to go to their doctor and get


two doctors' signatures to sign off on a legal medical procedure. You


don't need two doctors' signatures to go through brain surgery. We


don't see why this is special. But special is exactly what this


procedure is. It should be harder for women to get access to it, say


those outraged and upset that nearly 200,000 women had abortions last


year. I would like to see the law tightened so that we see a reduction


in the number of abortions, certainly no more children being


aborted for minor physical elements and certainly recognising that there


have been scientific breakthroughs in antenatal care and neonatal care.


We have to get the term limit down from 24 weeks at least to 22 weeks.


What concerns people on both sides of the argument is the issue of


gender selection. The idea that in some communities women are aborting


girl foetuses. Until recently the Government said this wasn't


happening in significant numbers. But research commissioned by the


Independent Newspaper has forced the Department of Health to launch an


investigation. The natural ratio of boys to girls means for every 100


girls born there are about 105 boys born. But the independent found that


the sex ratio of second born children in the UK was heavily


boy-biased in the families of mothers born in Afghanistan and


Pakistan. And this might be the case in families of mothers born in


Bangladesh. They say the statistics suggest that there are between 1,400


and 4,700 missing girls within all these ethnic groups living in


England and Wales. My reaction to the independent report is neither of


shock or surprise. But of deep disappointment. That this is still


going on and it is not settling down. As far as the UK is concerned


4,700 girls which are missing is a very significant number for a small


country like the UK. I know of at least 12 families in the Midlands


area who have been in touch with me, who have all of them actually


travelled to India to get this sex selective abortion done. It is not


hard to understand why it has been more than 20 years since the


Abortion Act was last amended. It is not just Westminster that is


nervous. So too are the campaigners. Worried that the other side might


gain more from any new legislation. We have If you are is -- Anne Furedi


is the chief executive of the Pregnancy Advisory Service and my


other guest is with me. Does the legislation need updating? It has


worked pretty well for the last 45 years but it definitely needs


updating now. There is a big question about whether abortion


needs to be covered by criminal legislation in this way. I mean


really the best person to decide on whether she should continue a


pregnancy is the woman herself. You would relax it, in effect? I think


that it won better if abortion were removed from the criminal law. If


women were able to make decisions, and indeed if the people who carried


out abortions were the people who were clinically able to do them,


that includes nurses as well as doctors. Clare Gerada, if a woman


can have an abortion because she's expecting a girl and a girl isn't


wanted, does that suggest to you there are flaws with the 1967 act? I


think we need to separate out those two issues, and separate out a small


minority who chose to abort a female foetus from the overall picture of


making sure that women have good access to safe abortion. And


actually I agree with Anne, I think we should look at the Abortion Act.


There are many things that can be improved. For example women need two


signatures on what is called "the blue form". When women have medical


terminations, where they take a pill, they have to come back to the


clinic two days later to collect the second pill and take the second pill


on site, and end up then having to travel possibly even having the


miscarriage on the tube or the bus going home. We need to separate out


those two issues. Let me ask you specifically about the gender


selection abortion, a minority but they are going on. It suggests that


women are effectively having to lie about their reasons for having an


abortion, because if they went to a clinic and said I want to abort this


foetus because it is female, they would be denied an abortion, so they


say there might be mental health problems? I'm in a woman, I wouldn't


be in favour of aborting myself just because of gender. I have looked at


those figure, the figures you have there, and the figures that the


Independent printed today. It is not as clear-cut as it is. Actually


there has always been more men than women, since figures first began in


the 1930s. The ratio between women and men has actually dropped so


whatever is happening it is not with losing lots of women, it is a very


complex issue. But equally I would like to repeat, what we must make


sure we do is give women timely and access to good and safe abortion.


And also, as your piece said, better access to contraceptive advice, and


better access to other ways to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. Anne Furedi,


are you saying that nurses should be able to sign off abortions and that


nurses should be able to carry out the procedure? What I'm saying is it


is really time, I believe, for a review on where abortion sits in our


lives and women do need abortion as, they need it as a back up to their


contraception. Because contraception fails them and sometimes we fail to


use it properly. That abortion should be able to be carried out by


people who are clinically competent do it. Whether it is nurses, or


indeed whether it is doctors. That women shouldn't have to demonstrate


that they need grounds laid down by politicians, because that makes no


sense, and I also really think that we should face up to the fact that


women in the north of Ireland should have exactly the same access to


abortion care as women in the rest of the UK. So society has really


moved on and I think it is time that the Abortion Act moved on. So you


really would want to see politicians, some of whom have very


entrenched views on both sides, you would really want to see the Commons


revisit the 1967 Abortion Act? What I believe very clearly is that if


we're going to have fundamental change on this, then politicians


will have to make that change. There is no way that it should be done


through the back door. We're a democratic society, politicians


should decide on our laws. But, no, I'm not worried about politicians


opening this question up. Because I think the overwhelming majority of


people in this country understand that abortion is a part of modern


life. A regrettable part, perhaps, but a part nonetheless. Would you be


worried about politicians revisiting it? I would be, they should and we


need to review the act. But I would be very worried about going


backwards, tightening up. You heard in the piece about using legislation


to prevent women having terminations. Actually we need to be


using education to prevent women needing terminations, not


legislation to prevent women, once they have an unwanted pregnancy so


like your piece I would be quite concerned about some of the views


that some of our politicians hold, which would make it harder for women


to have terminations. If there is a majority in the Commons? Listen, I


have been a doctor for my entire life, with the Abortion Act in


place, I have never had to work pre-1967 where women died because


they couldn't access a safe termination. Women will die if they


can't access safe terminations of pregnancy, I certainly don't want to


see that happening. If you want to go back to see when


the sun was this inactive in terms of the minimum we must have had and


the peak we had, you have to go back 100 years.


Ever since the Labour Party Conference last year Ed Miliband has


been making hay on the cost of living. On a speech today on the


cost of living he will seek to build that momentum, with a pitch to


constrict the power of the banks. Today, George Osborne launched a


pre-emptive attack, with an intervention on the minimum wage,


that a decade would have had Tories choking on their morning cornflake,


we will hear from Emily Maitlis in a second. First, this is what he said.


Just as we were all in this together in the crisis, I want to make sure


we're all in this together in the recovery. And because we're fixing


the economy, because we're working through our plan, I believe Britain


can afford an above inflation increase in the minimum wage. So we


restore its real value for people and we make sure we have a recovery


for all and that work always pays. It is quite interesting, isn't it,


to hear the Chancellor saying those words, he wants to restore the real


value of the minimum wage, which is dropped in real terms, we know,


since 2008. I imagine the Lib Dems will be hopping mad to hear their


language and words coming out of his mouth today. He's clearly at pains


to make clear that because of his tough choices this is something


Britain can now afford to do. Last week we had the ?12 billion of


welfare cuts announced. This is George Osborne saying we haven't


forgotten those at the bottom of the pile. We know we need to do


something. The Tories very keen to try not to incur that "nasty party"


rhetoric once again. What do we know about the wage, the level, he hasn't


said what the rate s he has been careful to remind us it is set by an


independent body, the Low Pay Commission. He said if it had


followed inflation it would be ?7 an hour by 2015/16. That is a pretty


strong hint. We know the minimum wage sits at ?6 an hour. That is


Anne crease of maybe 10%. What is intriguing is the politics of the


timing of it. I reported last week that there was a move on the minimum


wage in the air. I don't think the timing, just the night before Ed


Miliband's major speech on the economy. The first time we have seen


the leader of the opposition this year was a coincidence. The


Conservative Party years before was not on the prime minister page, but


it is on the right page now, it has rescued the British economy from the


brink of disaster and got us to a position where you can see the


minimum wage going up for people. Of course, more broadly, I want to see


living standards go up for the whole country as we fix the economy. That


clip came a little early what that pre-empted, if you like, the fact


that Labour said to me when the news broke, they were late to come to the


party, and don't forget actually they opposed, the Tories opposed the


minimum wage when it was first introduced in 1999. I was with the


Labour insiders when the news broke, they were a little surprised, but


their response was that Labour had established the minimum wage and


they were keen to get that across. I mentioned Ed Miliband's speech


tomorrow, on Tuesday we broke the news that he was implementing


radical reforms if he gets in touch with the banking sector. We have had


confirmation on what that would mean. Ed Miliband we understand


would say he wants to see two new challenger banks come into the


market. They would have at least 6% market share over the course of the


next five-year parliament. Who will ask the new competitions and


markets' authority just set up, to set a maximum threshold for the


future market share of any bank, any big bank, which would limit the size


to which they are able to grow, if they bust that level there would be


an investigation. That means nearly all the big banks would be broken up


in some shape. They would have to sell off branches and that could in


turn jeopardise plans to privatise RBS again, because there could be


too much uncertainty surrounding its value. They are calling this,


Labour, the new economy, they say they will taken every broken market.


We don't know what that means. They are paving the way more. They were


critical of Mark Carney's comments on these proposal. They said he


needs to be careful not to be overtly political. They said they


were rather surprised he had commented on proposals in a speech


that he couldn't possibly have heard because it hadn't yet been made. But


the overall thrust, if you like, of that Labour message was a warning to


the Government, and we can see some of what Ed Miliband's going to say


tomorrow. This was written, don't forget,


before we heard the announcement from George Osborne on the proposed


increase to the minimum wage. And when I asked Labour if the speech


would be rewritten at all as a result of this, they told me that Ed


Miliband had learned it off by heart and it was very unlikely he would


actually be changing it, but there will be a Q session. Let's talk to


the Business Secretary. How significant is this intervention


from George Osborne on the minimum wage today? I'm pleased with it. He


has effectively en dorsed the guidance I gave to the Low Pay


Commission, in fact I announced it at the Lib Dem conference in


September last, we wanted the low-pay commission to proceed. In


other words to increase the minimum wage, reflecting the fact that we


got a recovery, to restore its real value. Did you know he was going to


say this today? I didn't, but he did contribute a letter which formed


part of the evidence that I put forward to the Low Pay Commission.


When you heard him say this, were you surprised? Yes, I was a little


surprised. As I say I'm not taken aback by it, imitation is the best


form of flattery. When you have the Chancellor backing the policy I have


gone out and endorsed, I'm rather pleased. You will be, as Business


Secretary, it will be your final decision, it would be polite to


inform you today? He wrote to me yesterday, and he set out his views


on it and formed part of the package of Government evidence to the Low


Pay Commission. You are right, this does come to me and I will decide on


it, traditionally the Secretary of State accepts the views of the Low


Pay Commission. It is important, this whole thing has become very


politicised, we recognise it is nonpolitical, nonpartisan, it is


employers views' and they have to be respected. Do you wonder perhaps if


George Osborne is using what he said today to change people's perceptions


of the Conservative Party. Having cut the top rate of income tax? I


don't know what his motives are. You talk to him, you sit in cabinet


meetings with him? He has come to the right place. I think it is


important that we focus on the fairness agenda. As your comments a


few moments ago. There is a sense of people have been through a very hard


time, we have to concentrate on the people at the bottom end of the


scale. The Liberal Democrats lift people out of tax and we got this


approach to the minimum wage. We also deal with the inequalities at


the top, that is why we want to tax wealth as well. I'm glad George


Osborne is aligned with us on the minimum wage approach. Why has it


taken two years. You say it is really important to help people on


low incomes, you talked about raising the threshold. Why have you


done nothing on the minimum wage since you have been in Government?


Because that's not been the recommendation of the Low Pay


Commission. We have actually increased it, but you know their


concern throughout has been you don't want to increase wages in way


that creates large scale unemployment. That is their remit


and that is the way they interpret it. Their recommendations have been


that we should increase the minimum wage but not displace employment.


One of the big suck stories, and it has been a stuff time. The British


economy has taken a bounding as a result of the financial crisis, but


employment has held up. 1. 3 million more jobs. Unemployment has fallen


to 7. 4%, it is lower than in France and Sweden and other countries. We


don't want to spoil that story. We want jobs to continue to grow.


And when you have tried to persuade George Osborne of the merits of


increasing the minimum wage in the past, what has he said to you? I


don't think he fundamentally disagrees, he is concerned, as I am,


and indeed the Low Pay Commission, that we approach this in a way that


we want to help people on low earnings, but we don't want to have


adverse effects on the economy. The guidance I gave to the Low Pay


Commission asked them to look at this in a more holistic way. And to


look at the wider economic effects, take account of the fact the economy


is now recovering. Giving an incentive for people to work. The


time is right now? To be more positive. They have to make the


decision, they are an independent body. They make the recommendations,


as you have already said, it is your final call. Is it right you can be


so generous with business's money? That is not the way we see it.


Businesses are represented on the Low Pay Commission. That is why we


have to be responsible. I don't think any previous Secretary of


State has challenged the basic recommendation of the Low Pay


Commission. I did last year over the apprenticeship wage, but there was


an issue of principle there. We recognise that passing the costsen


to business is not right. Because they would in turn pass it on to


consumers. The CPBI, the British Chambers of Commerce, the Federation


of Small Business, they are a lot more cautious than you and the


Chancellor? I'm beg very cautious, and the guidance I have again to the


Low Pay Commission, is we do want to see increases in low pay. We want to


have real improvement, but it has to take account of the effects on


employment and the wider economy. That, of course, involves business


profitability. Let me ask you about Ed Miliband's plans for reforming


the banks what do you think? There are certain elements I agree with,


we need more competition, particularly in business banking.


Many of the things he's calling for have actually happened. Two new


banks have been created out of RBS and Lloyd's. Williams and Glynn,


TSB, carved out and up and running. I have established something called


The Business Bank, Government Finance, it is supporting new


companies, internet-based crowd funding. What is called peer-to-peer


lending, that is happening on a rapid scale. We are getting more


competition. What his proposals don't clearly indicate is exactly


what kind of bank is he trying to create. There is lots of competition


for mortgages, it is not a problem. There the real problem is for small


business, we are taking action on that already. I do agree with him,


we want to make more competition. We have been badly served by the banks


in the past. You would expect me to ask about Lord Rennard. Would you


like to see him removed from the party? Well, I think there is a lot


of frustration after this very strong report that came yesterday


that the party's rules don't permit that action. But what has happened


is the party leader, Nick Clegg, and the President, Tim Farron are now


discussing this closely and seeing how we can proceed and whether you


are rules need revisiting. Would you like to see him removed? I think I


would rather leave it to them. They are the key decision makers in the


party. They have to operate within the rules. I don't want to add an


independent view to that. Thank you very much.


20 lashes for being gay. Another vivid example of what can happen to


gay people in parts of Africa. This particular punishment was in


Nigeria, where a few weeks ago the Government quietly signed


anti-homosexuality legislation. Which means long jail sentences for


same-sex couples, and even for going to a gay club. You might say that is


a matter for them. But David Cameron wants justified the amount of aid


Britain gives to Nigeria by saying he would use it to influence


same-sex policies there. The bill was signed into law quietly earlier


this month without fanfare or announcement. When the news came out


this week it was relegated to a small corner of the national press.


But it is a piece of legislation that will have a huge impact on the


lives of gay people in Nigeria. Gay sex is already illegal, but this act


goes further. It recommends prison sentences of up to 14 years for


same-sex couples. Public displays of affection or even going to a gay


club could land you in jail for a decade. It is a populist and almost


universally popular move from a President under intense political


pressure at home, and facing re-election next year. We don't want


something in our country, I'm so happy that they signed against it.


It is better we have such law in place that we have situation where


is people would take the law into their own hands on account of saying


someone is suspected to be a homosexual, and then jungle justice


pertains. Since the announcement of the signing of the bill dozens of


people have been arrested in this staunchly religious and conservative


country the The police will arrest people and go through their


telephone and ask them to identify who is gay on their telephone


number, get the number and give this person a call and invite them over,


they go to the police station and get arrested and the system goes on.


This man, who fled to the UK in 2007 after coming out live on Nigerian


TV, says he and his family have been receiving death threats on social


networking sites. Where mob justice is bigger than anywhere in the


world, I fear for my family and friends and I fear for every


ordinary lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender people in Nigeria.


Being gay in Nigeria isn't easy. In a recent poll 98% of respondents


said homosexuality was unacceptable in society. Meetings are held in


secret, activists must conceal their identities. Nigeria is Africa's most


populist country. Despite its vast oil wealth, it is also one of the


continent's poorest. Where more than half the population survive on less


than ?1 day. British aid to Nigeria has almost doubled in five years. In


2010/11 D -- DFID gave: Nigeria is one of many African


states with antigay legislation on the statute books. Consensual


same-sex relationships are illegal in around two thirds of countries on


the continent. They include Ethiopia, which last year received


over ?261 from DFID. Tanzania at ?150, and south sudden Saab at just


under ?110 million are amongst the top recipients of UK aid money. In


2011 David Cameron said Britain would use aid to try to influence


Government policy on same-sex relationships in countries like


Nigeria. Britain is now one of the premier aid givers in the world,


saying that our aid actually, we want to see countries that receive


our aid adhering to proper human rights. That includes how people


treat gay and lesbian people. The Foreign Secretary said he was


disappointed with the signing of the bill, and that Britain frequently


raises its concerns both with Nigeria and other countries. Clearly


the aid money has continued to be forth coming. Some activists say


British policy of public rebukes and saber-rattling over aid is both


ineffectual and counter-productive. We can see the backlash from that in


nigh goria, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Zambia, all over Africa. Africa


standing up and saying Britain you are coming back to colonise us with


your money, take it away. After David Cameron made the statement


about the conditions attached to LGBT rights I wrote to the Foreign


Office, using the Freedom of Information Act, asking for


Britain's investment in LGBT organisations. No investment


atsoever. Britain's ?10 billion foreign aid budget is meant, in


part, to project soft power abroad. Nigerians both in the gay community


and in Government could be forgiven for thinking that all the tough talk


doesn't really mean very much. We approached the Foreign Office, the


Department for International Development, and the Ministry of


Justice for a minister to talk about this, but we were told that no-one


was available. As far as news stories go, you might think there


couldn't be two as different as the recent political earthquakes in the


Middle East, and the Hollywood Tinseltown. Two films with these


political uprisings have been nominated. A documentary about


Tahrir Square is up for nomination for best foreign film. And Camara


has no Wall is up for best short documentary. We did this to remove


him and put someone exactly like him in his place.


The army has killed us and tortured us and the people out there know


that. With me now from New York are my


guests. Congratulations first of all, tell us what is it about the


Arab Spring that was so inspiring to you as a film maker? Well I'm


Egyptian, I grew up about ten minutes from Tahrir Square. And the


square really gave birth to this film, Tahrir Square. In t square I


met an incredible group of film makers, Egyptian film makers, it was


a great collaboration. And I met characters that inspired me, that


were fighting for human rights and social justice, a universal


struggle. And have spent the last three years and are still on the


ground fighting. And they are incredibly inspiring people, people


that will put everything they have on the line to fight for what they


believe in. And they taught me a great deal about courage and bravery


and so this film I see and this uprising that we followed is really


about the courage and beauty of the Egyptian people. And it has changed


me forever, actually, the process of making it. I will ask you about that


in a minute. I want to say congratulations to Sarah as well in


Cairo. What inspired you with your film? I was there when the


revolution began and I spent quite a bit of time in the square with


cameramen and with people in the field hospital before it became


violent. What inspired me was similar to Jihan was the bravery of


the young men who put themselves at risk on the front lines. I went back


the following day, even after witnessing you know the brutality of


the regime, witnessing death and young men as well. I felt as a film


maker and someone who had the means to put their message across to the


world, that I should in some way facilitate that for them and with


them. It was really inspiring to be in the midst of such bravery. Why


don't you tell us why you say your life has been changed forever on


making your film? Well I have spent great deal of time in Egypt and the


States. The US is a place known for its people power, of the uprising of


the 1960s and I marched against the Iraq and Afghanistan war, it was


depressing to see nothing be affected by those marches. I have to


say when I went down to the square in Egypt, I had made a film in 2007


about women who were might fighting for political change, most of it


ended with people being jailed and cameras smashed and everything. When


they managed to bring down a President of 30 years, a dictator of


30 years, my complete understanding of possibility changed. I think when


that happens to you and you see the determined nature of people and this


adamant nature of this, that people, sticking to their principles against


all odds, your understanding of yourself changes. It is not only a


revolution on the outside. It is a revolution on the inside. When you


experience that magic, the hope is to be able to share that with the


rest of the world. That's why we made a film. Sarah, it was mentioned


the possibilities that emerged from the Arab Spring, very much seen as


an opportunity for women to have a voice. When women were often


marginalised. I wonder if you think things have changed permanentry when


it comes to women's rights? Women did take a very significant stance


during the revolution and they have been recognised since then as well


in some very prominent roles in relation to the Nobel Peace Prize,


journalists and within media. I think what it has done is set a


precedent and women have set an example. Politically I don't think


that much has changed. There hasn't really been progress in that regard.


But on a social level I think doors have been opened. Women are


definitely more inspired. I think they are able to break free from the


shackles of society and politics as well and really take part in a more


effective manner. So in that respect I think things have changed. There


are a number of people in west who look at Egypt and say not that much


has changed, what would you say to them? I would say it took 16 years


between the revolution and the constitution writing in the United


States. We have had three. These processes take a long time. There


are people that are still on the ground every single day fighting for


change. One incredible woman got me out of prison a couple of times, and


is in the courthouses getting people out of prison every day is on the


forefront of that change and many others. The change doesn't only


happen on the political level, but on other levels, the cultural


levels, the explosion of art and poetry. Writing on walls, all of


this is changing th culture. And that's very significant and if you


think about the civil rights movement for example, there was a


consciousness change, people would never put up the kinds of actions


that happened after the civil rights movement as they did before the


civil rights movement. I believe a consciousness has changed and is


changing in Egypt as we speak. Thank you very much both of you, good


luck. Scientist say we're in the middle of a solar lull. The sun's


fallen asleep, effectively, and it is baffling them. History suggests


that periods of unusual solar lull coincide with bitterly cold winters


what effect could this current inactivity have on our climate this


time round. What are the implications for global warming. We


have this report. The wonder of the Northern Lights. Reminds us of the


intimate connection we have with our star. This happens when solar winds


hit the earth's upper atmosphere. But many of these displays may soon


vanish. Something is happening to the solar activity on the surface of


the sun. It is ng, fast. Whatever measure you use it is coming down,


the solar peaks are coming down. For example with the flares, it looks


very, very significant. The solar cycles are now getting smaller and


smaller, the activity is getting less and less. There is a vast range


of solar activity. Sunspots, intensely magnetic areas, seen as


dark spots on the sun's surface, the UVA lights reflect towards the


earth, and flares erupt violently and tonnes of charged particles go


into place. It rises and falls in cycles over 11 years, now we are at


a peak. The solar maximum. This is eerily quiet. I have been a solar


physicist for 40 years, I have never seen something anything quite like.


To go back to see a similar minimum you have to go back 100 years. It is


not something I have seen in my lifetime or a couple of generations


before them have seen. The number of sunspots is a fraction of what


scientists expected. Solar flares are half. This man is head of the


lab in Oxfordshire. He says the rate it is falling mirrors a period in


the 17th century where sunspots disappear. It was a period of nearly


no sunspots for decades. We saw a really dramatic period where there


was very cold winters in the Northern Hemisphere. You had a


mini-Ice Age. You had a period where the Thames froze in the winter, it


was an interesting time. Rivers and canals froze across northern Europe.


Paintings from the 17th century show frost fairs taking place on the


Thames. During the great frost of 1684 the river froze over for two


months. The ice was almost a foot thick. The astronomer who observed


the steep decline in solar activity. The Monza minimum came when the sea


froze over and crop failures were widespread across northern Europe.


Does a decline in solar activity mean plunging temperatures for


decades to come. We have been making observations of sunspots, the most


obvious sign of solar activity from 1609 and on wards, we have hundreds


of years of observations. The sun seems in a similar phase as it was


in the run up before. I mean the activity is dropping off, cycle by


cycle. Lucy Green is based at the science laboratory in the North


Downs, she thinks that lower levels of solar activity could effect the


climate. She's not sure to what extent. It is a very complex area,


because the sun's activity controls how much visible light the sun gives


out, but also how much ultraviolet light and X-rays that the sun


submits. They create a web of changes in the earth's atmosphere,


and producing effects we don't fully understand. Some researchers have


gone way further back in time, locked into the ice sheets are


particles once in the upper atmosphere, particles that show


variations in solar activity. Mike Lockwood's work suggests this is the


fastest rate of solar decline for 20,000 years. When we look at the


record we can say what has the sun gone on to do, based on that and the


current state of decline, we estimate ho 40 years from now, there


is a 20% probability that we will be back in the early conditions by that


time. Less solar activity means a drop in ultraviolet radiation. Mike


Lockwood says this seems to affect the behaviour of the jet stream. It


changes its pattern and ends up blocking warm air from reaching


northern Europe. It causes long, cold, winters, but what about


tempures as a whole? One has to make a separation between winter cold


claimate. If we get something happening it is warmer than England.


The average is change. It is a redistribution of temperature around


the North Atlantic. The relationship between solar activity and weather


on earth is complicated. If solar activity continues to fall, could


the temperature on earth as a whole get cooler? Could there be


implications for global warning? The world we live in today is very


different from the Monde Minute yum, we have had the Industrial


Revolution, and all kinds of gases being put in. On the one hand you


have a cooling sun and on the other hand you have human activity that


can counter that. It is difficult to say how these two are going to


compete and what the consequences are then for the global climb plate.


So even if the planet as a whole continues to wall, if we enter


another Ice Age the future to be frozen winters for decades to come.


And we don't even have bountiful displays of the Northern Lights to


cheer us up. That's all from us tonight. We


learned today that the actor, Roger Lloyd Pack died last night. He was


69. Dramatic actor, nevertheless found game with his character in


Only Fools And Horses. Trigger was a road sweeper by trade, and gave a


modern name to an old paradox, "trigger's objects". Is a product


with everything replaced still the same project. If you have had the


broom for 20 years, have you actually swept any roads with it? Of


course, but I look after it well. We have an old saying handed down by


generations of road sweepers, look after your broom... . And let your


broom look after you? No Dave it is just look after your broom. That old


saying. That is what I have done, I have maintained it for 20 years.


This old broom has had 17 new heads and 14 new handles in its time. How


the hell can it be the same bloody broom thenment Here is a picture of


it, what more proof do you need. MIT The showers coming down and more


sunshine. Fog in


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