16/06/2011 Question Time


16/06/2011

David Dimbleby chairs the topical debates in front of an invited studio audience, with a panel of guests from the world of politics.


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Tonight we are in Aberdeen and With me on our panel the First

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Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, from the cabinet the Liberal

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Democrat Scottish Secretary, Michael Moore, the last

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Conservative Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Forsythe, the

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Labour MP from Glasgow, Margaret Curran, and one of Scotland's

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richest men, the businessman Tom Hunter.

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APPLAUSE. Thank you very much. Our first

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question tonight is from Emma Campbell, please. With the UK

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retail sales falling 1.4% in May is a temporary VAT cut needed to start

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the economy? That's the suggestion made by the Shadow Chancellor today,

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Ed Balls, that there should be a cut in VAT to kickstart the economy.

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Michael Michael Forsythe? Absolutely not. It would cost �12

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billion and we are trying to pay off a deficit where the interest

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costs are enormous and if the markets think for a moment that we

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have lost our determination to reduce this deficit, then we will

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see interest rates going up and that will be catastrophic for jobs,

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for people paying mortgages, and for our economy overall. You think

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he he doesn't skwrpb stand the economy or was he playing politics?

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If he understood the economy we wouldn't be in this mess now.

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APPLAUSE. I think he is probably trying to get a headline to take

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attention away from some of the documents that were brought into

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the public domain that showed he was plotting against his own Prime

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Minister. I think Ed Balls has made it absolutely clear today what the

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whole country knows, which is that the Labour Party has lost its

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economic competence. We have to stick with this prol. -- policy.

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The slightest indication of change could cause great difficulty and I

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think it's important that people recognise that we are not out of

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the woods yet and there are serious problems still in the banking

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system, and with the euro in Greece and we really have to keep on with

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this policy of reducing the deficit. By the way, when we talk about

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reducing the deficit, all we're doing is talking about reducing the

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rate at which we are increasing the debt. The deficit of �150 billion

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is the amount that our debt is increasing. The national debt

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doubled in the last parliament and we are, if we get rid of the

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structural deficit, we will still have a larger debt. You are saying

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it's not even tough enough at the moment? I am saying it's as tough

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as we can be and... You would like it to be tougher, if it could be?

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think we should recognise we are in very serious difficulties because

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of the huge increase in public expenditure in place under the last

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Government, which was not able to be funded because it was the

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product of a boom. Alex Salmond. wonder if Michael is telling us the

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whole story, because it was interesting last last week when

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this argument was planning about plan B, the Chancellor gave an

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interview where he wouldn't say they were going on to plan B but

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said there was flexibility within plan A. Whether you call it

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flexibility or you call it plan B, I am for plan B of flex flex

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I think we have got to act on bank lending, small and medium

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businesses are still not getting access to bank lending, and I think

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in terms of consumer confidence you have got to try and address, which

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is why you need flexibility in a plan B which is what's stopping

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people spending. What's stopping people spending is fear of

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unemployment. When people believe their jobs are at risk they save,

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they don't spend. Once they believe or can see a light at the end.

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Tunnel, more job security that's when people people spend and invest

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so that would be my prescription and frankly, I don't care if you

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call it plan B or flexibility around plan A, the Chancellor

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should get on with it. APPLAUSE.

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So, Margaret Curran, two against Ed Balls. Are you fully in favour of

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what he said? Yes, I do think what Ed Balls is saying this afternoon

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is right and I do - to answer the question the lady asked about the

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VAT increase, we do have to bring down VAT because it would encourage

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spending. How much would it cost to do that? Michael Forsythe said �12

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billion, far be it from me to agree with Michael's figures but if we go

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with that figure it's an interesting figure because the

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Government have to h to increase welfare spending by �12 billion

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according to their own independent forecasts by �12 billion because of

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so many people out of work. I think it's crazy that we have a situation

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where you are actually increasing welfare spending because you are

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not tackling the job situation. What we need to do - let me agree

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with Alex Salmond on this point, we need to get people back to work,

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having more people on the dole is just a stupid strategy and takes

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you down a false road. We have just had some fantastic jobs figures.

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Well, let's not get too complacent about those jobs figures. I am not

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complacent. Let me tell you about those figures, any fall in

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unemployment is to be welcomed but there was also an increase in the

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claimant of people seeking jobseeker's allowance. Let me tell

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you about parts of Glasgow, there are approximately 25 people chasing

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every vacancy. That's a desperate situation and what we should do is

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have a Government that actually wants to do something about that

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and get people back to work. That's the way to start getting back on

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the road to recovery. APPLAUSE.

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Alex Salmond said he didn't think two half% off VAT was the right

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answer? There are other things need to be done, it's part of the answer

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because the institute of fiscal studies said the last time when the

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Labour Government took that down that it was an important stimulus,

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it did bring borrowing down, it did help to reduce the deficit last

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time. You have a short short memory, you are forgetting how seriously

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the economy was in a very bad place only a year ago. We have come out

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of the deepest recession over the last few years. There were a number

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of factors, but the fact is that your Government left us with a huge

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gap between the amount we raised in tax every year and the amount we

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spend. We could not continue on that basis for any longer. That's

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why the Chancellor set out a very bold plan to reduce the deficit, to

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ensure that we create the conditions where jobs can be

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created. Let's agree on that. The importance for the economy for the

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country as a whole is to make sure we create more jobs. What's wrong

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with the idea of a stimulus? We had stimulus for a long time - wait a

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minute. You changed your tune when you went to the Tories.

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APPLAUSE. The truth is having Maxed out on

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the nation's credit card as you did for a long time, we are the ones

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who are having to pick up the pieces and make sure we get the

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economy back in the right place. So, help businesses by reducing the

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taxes they're paying, making sure interest rates are as low as

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possible. If you doubt us, look at across Europe, see what interest

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rates we are paying that are comparable to Germany as opposed to

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Greece, which is paying something like 18%, that's not sustainable.

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Thank you. The woman there. Salmond believes that we are all

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saving instead of spending. Wake up, many people would love to have the

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luxury to be able to save at the moment.

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APPLAUSE. Tom Hunter, you are from the

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business world, what do you think of this idea of a cut in VAT?

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retailer I will take whatever help I can get, because consumer

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confidence is at its lowest point that I have ever seen it. Will VAT

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help? It may help, but as Alex Salmond said, consumer confidence

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is made up of many things and the consumer is being hit with Scottish

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power 19% on fuel, prices unbelievable, the fear of

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unemployment, are they going to have a job at the end of the week?

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People are frightened to spend and they do rein in spending so I am

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for less tax, not more tax, and I think where the current Government

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has got it wrong, quite frankly, is we all understand we all need to

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draw in our belts, everybody understands that, but where is the

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growth? More importantly, to get us out of the situation we are in,

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will be the tax take on the increase in the economy, not just

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keep cutting, cutting. Soon there'll be nothing left to cut.

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How do you get growth? How you get growth is to stimulate it. I would

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love to see in Scotland that we controlled our own corporation tax.

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I would love to attract the businesses here so that we can

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attract businesses, create jobs, as Margaret Curran said, paying people

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to sit idle is lunancy. The woman here. You look at the unemployment

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figures. I am a qualified nurse who is unemployed. I looked today on

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the Scottish website for jobs, there are seven jobs for the whole

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of Scotland. How does Mr Salmond - you were saying you want to look at

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building hospitals etc, how are you going to staff those when you are

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not not prepared to employ any nurses? Michael Forsythe. I think

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it's crazy - sorry, Alex, we are going to disagree, it's crazy for

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me to be giving free prescriptions in Scotland when that money could

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be spent on employing more nurses and doctors in the health service.

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APPLAUSE. The man up there.

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We have youth unemployment rate in this country and everyone knows

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that it spells bad for the next five to ten years. What we need to

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do is start getting the youth employed so we have people working

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in five to ten years time. We have gone away from the VAT point.

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answer Michael directly, the reason we don't pay prescriptions in

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Scotland is because there was 6 hundred,000 people earning less

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than �16,000 having to pay prescriptions over �7. When we are

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talking about pressure on family budgets it's bad enough every price

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on every good in shop is going up, gas bills going up, but when you

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have evidence of people having to choose which prescription they need

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for their family it's proper to act on that. We have a target of

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reducing senior management in the health service by 25% and if we can

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use that, then that's a good value for money in having prescriptions

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free in Scotland. Can I turn to the point Margaret made. In 2008, the

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Labour Government analysed the relative merits in creating jobs of

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cutting VAT on the one hand, and on the other hand, increasing capital

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investment, building in the economy and found for the same price with

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the same costs you generated twice as many jobs through capital

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investment as you did for cutting VAT. Now that was the Labour

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Government's own figures in 2008. You might say they've got other

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figures wrong in 2008 but nonetheless, that analysis holds. I

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have never seen a recovery in any economy, anywhere, which wasn't

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accompanied by a recovery in construction. You must get the

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construction sector moving, you must build things, you must get the

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economy moving. The man there. I don't mean to be

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the one that reminds the Government that they've just - where this

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programme is coming from, but it's put a significant tax on the energy

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sector and it does put a severe pressure on potential projects that

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are going on in the future. As a graduate engineer a job that was

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potentially very secure for a long time might become unsecure in the

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way to come. You are cutting taxes for businesses, it's not for all

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businesses, it's not across the board. We may have have time to get

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to that point later on. The woman there. Given the VAT is a temporary

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measure to cut it back, do you think it's a short-term fix rather

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thapbg a long -- rather than a long-term solution to the problems?

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I don't know if I was being honest, hopefully it's a short-term fix and

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it may not be needed long-term. But what we need to have is a long

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kwrepl solution to the problems of our economy. If I could return to

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the point I was trying to - rudely interskwrebgt and -- interskwrebgt

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about the point where we are and why we are here, this is

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undoubtedly and international crisis and we have to appreciate

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that, we have to understand the scale of the challenge that is in

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front of us. This wasn't made in Downing Street. This was made in

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Wall Street. Other countries are facing exactly what we are facing.

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Bear with me. You can't just blame the last Labour Government, that's

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far too easy. The challenge to our economy, getting young people back

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to work as the gentlemen said, making sure we have nurses, getting

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schools built and I will lobby Alex so get more schools in my

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constituency because the SNP haven't built any in the time

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they've been in power in my constituency. It's a mixture of

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things, but my core point would be you have to use the skills of the

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people you have got. Throwing people on the dole, as we know too

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sadly in Scotland, is a false economy. Get people back to work,

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that's what we need to do. You are right. Nobody wants to see anybody

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on the dole at all. But we have actually got to make sure the

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economy is working so that we can create jobs, real jobs, not false

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jobs with false promises as Labour were doing with the Future Jobs

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Fund under the previous regime. Come on... The Tories think nurses

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Margaret Curran, one of the rules of the programme is to allow the

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others to speak! Bearing in mind the economic crisis, that was a

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factor. It was exacerbated by the last Government, the way in which

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it spent money as if it were going out of fashion. We are now picking

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up the pieces. If we don't do it correctly, we will be in a mess for

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a very long time to come. If the SNP are confident, that the

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people of Scotland want independence, why not set a date

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for the vote? APPLAUSE. It seems to be a one for you, Alex

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Salmond if you are so confident that the people of Scotland want

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independence, why not set a date? During the election campaign a few

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weeks ago, when asked when the referendum should be, I said well

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into the second half of the term. Given that occasionally,

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politicians are criticised for not doing as they said in an election

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campaign, I thought I would provide a refreshing change and stake to

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what -- stick to what I offered the people during the campaign. That

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seemed to attract support. The other reason that this is important.

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It touches on what we have been speaking about. That is that I seem

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the immediate priority as to getting the economic powers into

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the Scotland Bill. To get economic teeth, like the point that Sir Tom

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Hunter made about Corporation Tax control. Levers to enhance growth

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in the economy, to respond to the economic crisis, to get the

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Scottish economy moving. That is the immediate priority. Then we

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have the question of independence. Is it not better to do that as an

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independent nation? I think it would be.

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Why not have it? Or don't you think that they will win? We are laying

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out the immediate priority. I know you are saying that. People

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have watched your victory and been gobsmacked by it. You know. They

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are gobsmacked. The system was set up to stop what

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happened, you got the majority. The whole construction as the Labour

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Party said when they invented the system, it would not happen. You

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swept the board and now people think, in the rest of the UK as

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well, that the SNP are riding high, why not go the whole hog and have

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their independence referendum? Because one of the reasons we swept

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the board perhaps, David, apart from appearing in Question Time

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rand the election campaign, but one of the reasons we swept the board

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is that people believed we would do what we said to do in the campaign.

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If I came after winning a victory that was not expected by

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commentators and perhaps even slightly exceeding the SNP's

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expectations, if I said we have a majority, we can do what we like,

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to reverse the timetable I set out in the election campaign, the

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questions would be why didn't you do what you said in the election

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campaign? I think given the experience of the Liberal Democrats,

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that would have been an unwise policy, so let's concentrate on

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getting the economic powers and then let the Scottish people

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express their opinion on a Scottish future.

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George Foreman, does that -- Michael Forsythe, what do you

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think? I think it is balderdash. The reason he does not want to set

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a date, he knows if he had a referendum now, he would lose it.

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APPLAUSE. So he want wants to spend five

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years creating grievances and aggros, in the hope that it ruments

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in Scotland breaking up the union. I don't believe that Scotland will

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vote to break up the union. The reason that people voted for Alex,

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he has run a competent administration in the Scottish

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Parliament. It was the choice of having an SNP administration and

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the Labour administration, people looked at the record and they voted

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SNP. They expect him to implement the manifesto promise iss. Now,

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there is �5 billion of promise iss there, where he is getting the

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money from, I don't know. If he is able to deliver all of the things

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he promised and to do all of the things that he said, I may be

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tempted to vote for him myself! He has found a way of turning led that

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gold. He is a latter day alchemist. The truth is that he knows he would

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lose it. There is a serious point, it is damaging to Scotland's

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interest to have this uncertainty hanging over our heads as to

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whether we are to remain a part of the United Kingdom, what is the

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position on tax, finances, what is the position on defence, the rest,

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so the sooner that we end the uncertainty and get on with the

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business of creating jobs and prosperity, the better. So Alex,

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give the people the say. You spent the last Parliament from being

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prevented for creating a referendum. Could you instigate a referendum?

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Alex does not have the power in the Scottish Parliament to create a

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binding referendum. So, why are you blaming him?

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Westminster could do it? APPLAUSE. Because he is busy telling us,

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through the back door, that if we had a referendum, if we legislated

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in the Scotland Bill, which I will vote for, happily table an

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amendment in the Lord's, to create the opportunity for Scotland to

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have a say, he would boycott it and use his powers to make it not

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happen. If Alex wants to suss did - - ask us to do it, of course we

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will do it, but he won't as he is afraid.

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I agree with what Lord Forsythe is saying regarding the SNP but the

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more you go on about it, if you don't get the chance, people are

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going to take you for a weak leader. You are not leading Scotland.

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So, if he doesn't do it by the end of Parliament? Yes. You are banging

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on it about, Scotland want it, or they say that they do, but without

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the vote you will never know. I think that Michael Forsythe is

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right. You are ducking the issue as you know you will lose it. The

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reason is because you have not confronted the Scottish people with

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all of the arguments. We would have to set up our own ambassadors and

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embassies throughout the world to represent us. We would need a

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Defence Force, our own Immigration Service, our own customs service,

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would we be members of the European Union or not? What about the

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currency? Would you like a vote this week? I would like the

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procedure for the vote to begin as soon as possible because I want all

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of these issues to come out. APPLAUSE.

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The Secretary of State for Scotland said the other day that there would

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need to be two referendums in his opinion. One, Alex Salmond's

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referendum from Holyrood and one from Westminster actually to make

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it a law. Is that your view? think that I demonstrated the

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danger to be drawing into considering hypotheticals.

0:22:340:22:38

The uncertainties that everybody has picked on in the room, the key

0:22:380:22:42

things that none of us can know, what territory we are going into

0:22:420:22:47

when Alex will not set out the proposition. Is it a fully

0:22:470:22:50

independent country? Independence light where we share defence bases

0:22:500:22:55

but have an independent foreign policy? Are we talking about a

0:22:550:23:00

confederation or whatever it will look like? Will there be one, two,

0:23:000:23:04

three questions on the ballot paper? Michael is right, the

0:23:040:23:07

uncertainty of this is damaging and it is distraction from getting on

0:23:070:23:12

with the real job, that is fixing the Scottish economy. Besides that,

0:23:120:23:16

it is leading to great economic uncertainty as the businesses begin

0:23:160:23:21

to decide where to place investment, to put more in Scotland, elsewhere,

0:23:210:23:25

this is a big question. Why not, as the coalition

0:23:250:23:28

government, you know you have a government in Scotland to have a

0:23:280:23:32

referendum it is a matter for the whole of the United Kingdom, why

0:23:320:23:37

don't you say you will call a referendum, that these are the

0:23:370:23:42

terms on which you think Scotland could have independence and let's

0:23:420:23:46

have a vote and forget Alex Salmond and do it for the people of

0:23:460:23:52

Scotland. You could do it legally? It would be discourteous to Alex.

0:23:520:23:58

I'm not meaning out of sight, out of mind... But we want Scotland to

0:23:580:24:03

remain a part of the United Kingdom. Then why not have a referendum to

0:24:030:24:07

test that? Alex can bring that forward. He should bring it forward.

0:24:070:24:11

Why don't you do it? You said it was your view that the United

0:24:110:24:18

Kingdom should stick together, the SNPs say no, why not you instigate

0:24:180:24:22

a referendum and find out what the answer is? I want to get on with my

0:24:220:24:27

job, on delivering through the Scotland Bill. Serious powers to

0:24:270:24:30

help Alex's colleagues to ensure the accountability of the

0:24:300:24:34

Parliament, to the Scottish people is in the hands and that they get

0:24:340:24:39

real powers. That is what we are getting on with, the real job of

0:24:390:24:43

getting the powers. We know ethere will be a referendum

0:24:430:24:49

in five years, so why not use the Scotland Bill or your powers to set

0:24:490:24:52

up an independent commission to address the points that were made

0:24:520:24:56

by the gentleman in the front there, what the kenss of independence

0:24:560:25:03

would be for the whole of the United Kingdom. -- what the

0:25:030:25:07

consequences of independence would be for the whole of the United

0:25:070:25:11

Kingdom? There is a question there. I think that we do not need

0:25:110:25:15

commissions to elus this, but we have to examine the costs. Alex

0:25:150:25:20

says he wants the referendum. If he is confident, let him get on with

0:25:200:25:25

Sir Tom Hunter? What is your view of this? As a Scot who spends a lot

0:25:250:25:30

of time in London I'm fed up with people down there saying how can

0:25:300:25:34

you guys, no tuition fees for universities? Free prescriptions,

0:25:340:25:41

free care for the elderly, we are subsidising you, that grates with

0:25:410:25:49

Why? Are you saying it is not true or is it true or is it false?

0:25:490:25:53

don't think it is true. Why not? I will come to that in a

0:25:530:26:00

minute. I have a sneaking suspicion that Alex and his team have some

0:26:000:26:04

Machiavellian plot that says they will make the rest of the UK so fed

0:26:040:26:11

up with us, they are going to put uts out. I saw an opinion poll --

0:26:110:26:17

to put us out. I saw an opinion poll that said that more people in

0:26:180:26:24

England want independence for Scotland than the Scots themselves!

0:26:240:26:28

We need if we have have the power to spend. I agree with no tuition

0:26:280:26:33

fees, I think it is a right for your ability to learn, rather than

0:26:330:26:40

your ability to pay. If we make that decision... APPLAUSE.

0:26:400:26:45

If we make that decision, that's great, but we also need the power

0:26:450:26:49

to raise the money because at the present time we can spend it, but

0:26:490:26:53

we are not accountable for raising it. That's why we are seen as

0:26:530:26:57

somebody with their hand out for the Barnetkm formula and the block

0:26:570:27:02

grant and that is not good enough. Why do you say, as a matter of

0:27:020:27:10

interest, for a factual point, in England getting �8,531 a head, and

0:27:100:27:17

Scotland getting �9,940 a head, that it is not true that England is

0:27:170:27:20

subsidising Scotland? It depends on if you believe that the North Sea

0:27:210:27:26

oil is Scotland or the UK's or where it lies? Or if you believe

0:27:260:27:30

the Treasury? I don't know if anybody believes the Treasury, to

0:27:300:27:35

be honest. If Scotland did actually vote for

0:27:350:27:39

independence, would the Conservative and the Liberal

0:27:390:27:42

Democrats block it? Would they ignore the people of Scotland

0:27:420:27:47

again? No. I believe in any referendum. We would look for a

0:27:470:27:50

decisive outcome. I believe this that it would be that Scotland

0:27:500:27:55

decides to remain a part of the United Kingdom. What would that be?

0:27:550:28:01

Would you set the bar so high where you would say that 75 or 80% had to

0:28:010:28:07

vote? We have said it is for Alex to bring forward the referendum.

0:28:070:28:11

It is for citizens of Scotland to ask what the questions should be,

0:28:110:28:17

when they will be, and when they will come. If the people of

0:28:170:28:22

Scotland decide, they may decide not to, or decide to go for it, if

0:28:220:28:28

they decide to vote for it, will you stop it? I don't think it would

0:28:280:28:31

be right for the coalition government to bring forward

0:28:310:28:35

policies for the referendum of Scotland. I have to acknowledge

0:28:350:28:40

that. The SNP won the last election, conclusively. That tells us

0:28:400:28:43

something about what Scottish people. I think that Scottish

0:28:430:28:47

people want to have a conversation about their future. Now the SNP

0:28:470:28:51

have said for some time that they believe in a referendum. That has

0:28:510:28:55

been their policy. It was at the last election and the one before

0:28:550:28:58

that. So they have a view about what the

0:28:590:29:03

referendum should be about. Presumably they have thought

0:29:030:29:08

through some of the issues that gentleman put so well.

0:29:080:29:14

Bare with me, I have been so patient trying not to interup the

0:29:140:29:19

other people. It equally does not mean you can go

0:29:190:29:25

on! He is picking on me! So, I think that the issues that you put

0:29:250:29:27

forward are significant. This is important for the future of

0:29:270:29:31

Scotland. This goes to the heart about how we see ourselves, what

0:29:310:29:35

our future is about. I would rather have said that the family of the

0:29:350:29:39

nations is the United Kingdom. For that to develop and to have an

0:29:390:29:43

assertive Scotland, but we have to know the details. We have to get

0:29:430:29:51

into the details. A question from Colin Currie.

0:29:510:30:01
0:30:010:30:03

Yes and I know a lot of people say - talking about independence a lot

0:30:030:30:08

of people say the country couldn't stand on its own two feet, it

0:30:080:30:12

couldn't manage economically but I have incredible confidence that

0:30:120:30:15

England would manage just fine. English self-Government, because

0:30:150:30:19

they're a great nation for great history and I would think would do

0:30:190:30:24

just fine. A number of points. I am going to answer you, David, that's

0:30:240:30:26

unconventional but I am going to do it. You were talking about Treasury

0:30:260:30:33

figures, it's true that Treasury figures show that Scotland, - CSO

0:30:330:30:37

analysis shows Scotland gets 9% of expenditure of 8.7% of the

0:30:370:30:42

population, the same figures show Scotland generally gets 10% of the

0:30:420:30:46

revenue of the United Kingdom, we general rate more revenue. Despite

0:30:460:30:49

your faith in the London Treasury, I think one of the great lies in

0:30:490:30:53

life along with the cheque's in the post and darling I will respect you

0:30:530:30:56

in the morning is I am from the London Treasury and I really want

0:30:560:31:00

to help Scotland. If London Treasury didn't think Scotland was

0:31:000:31:04

a great deal they wouldn't be so anxious to hang on to us and hang

0:31:040:31:09

on to all that revenue. So, let's take the gentleman's question which

0:31:090:31:13

I thought was a very good one, I think that the right process to go

0:31:130:31:17

through is to follow what we said we would do in the election, which

0:31:170:31:22

received a strong powerful mandate. I am not convinced by people in the

0:31:220:31:28

Conservative and Liberal parties who are fanatically against having

0:31:280:31:33

a referendum and - let's stick to what we said in the election

0:31:330:31:37

campaign. Publish a White Paper which will set out the prospectus

0:31:370:31:40

facing the people, our belief of what independence means in the

0:31:400:31:43

modern world, asking all the questions you asked, answering all

0:31:430:31:47

the questions you asked and more and then ask the people to vote yes

0:31:470:31:53

or no to that proposition. Is that an unusual thing to do in the world,

0:31:530:31:57

40 countries have managed it in the last century, 20 in the last 40

0:31:570:32:03

years or so. It happens once every two years around the world. You

0:32:030:32:07

know what, not one of these cases they had to ask two referendums,

0:32:070:32:11

one was never for every other country and I believe one will be

0:32:110:32:14

enough are to Scotland -- for Scotland. Thank you very much. We

0:32:150:32:23

must go on, time is not on our side. If you are following us on Twitter

0:32:230:32:33
0:32:330:32:38

A question now please from Audrey Anderson.

0:32:380:32:48
0:32:480:32:49

Should assisted dying be legalised in Britain?

0:32:490:32:56

A question no doubt inspired by the film that the BBC showed of Terry

0:32:560:33:00

Pratchett watching somebody in a film called Choosing To Die,

0:33:000:33:05

watching somebody kill himself in Switzerland. Margaret Curran?

0:33:050:33:11

never saw the film and I feel I should see it and will probably

0:33:110:33:17

make myself see it, I feel perhaps I have to. I didn't agree with

0:33:170:33:20

Margaret McDonald's legislation in front of the Scottish parliament

0:33:200:33:24

because it's such a difficult issue... You had a proposal here?

0:33:240:33:30

Yes, and there was a members bill and we all had a view on that, an

0:33:300:33:33

opportunity to express a view because you have be so careful with

0:33:330:33:37

all the safeguards around this. If I was very honest with you, I would

0:33:370:33:41

say I can see arguments strongly on both sides. When you hear the

0:33:410:33:46

testimony of people who are going through extraordinary illnesses and

0:33:460:33:51

hear their words and not wanting their relatives to be persecuted,

0:33:510:33:55

then you can understand why they feel that. On the other hand, I

0:33:550:33:59

worry greatly about the need for safeguards and about some people

0:33:590:34:03

under pressure and I also heard people say they feel as if somehow

0:34:030:34:06

elderly people who are perhaps very old, they're under pressure perhaps.

0:34:060:34:10

Are you for or against? I am not against, but I wouldn't want to

0:34:100:34:14

dismiss and feel an obligation to hear the testimony of people and

0:34:140:34:18

continue to listen... You are not against, there you are for? Sorry.

0:34:180:34:23

I am not trying to play a game here. Nor am I. I want to know what you

0:34:230:34:30

think. On the basis I don't think the safeguards are strong enough to

0:34:300:34:34

prevent abuse and give people proper reassurances... Is now is

0:34:340:34:41

not the time? I would not dismiss the arguments. Tom Hunter.

0:34:410:34:47

answer to your question, in my opinion, is yes. A recent poll

0:34:470:34:53

actually, 86% of those polled were in favour of it. I think it takes

0:34:530:34:58

me back to the Daniel James example, a young rugby player who became

0:34:580:35:05

paralysed from the chest down, and he wanted to end his life. His

0:35:050:35:11

parents didn't want him to end his life. He finally convinced them and

0:35:110:35:18

they went to Switzerland and Keir Starmer did not prosecute on that

0:35:190:35:24

occasion. All that any of us want is a dignified exit and we need

0:35:240:35:30

safeguards, of course we do, but if this young man has decided that he

0:35:300:35:35

wants to exit the world, what right has anybody else to tell him no,

0:35:350:35:45
0:35:450:35:45

you are wrong? APPLAUSE.

0:35:450:35:50

I agree with Mr Hunter, it's a dying shame, excuse the pun, that a

0:35:500:35:53

person from Britain has to travel all the way to Switzerland to have

0:35:530:35:56

a dignified death. I am a doctor and I see patients dying all the

0:35:560:36:01

time, unfortunately. I think if a person is sane and is competent and

0:36:010:36:07

has made a decision and that is the safeguard being discussed, then

0:36:070:36:12

that person should be allowed a dignified exit and not have to go

0:36:120:36:16

all the way to Switzerland, because not everyone can afford that, let

0:36:160:36:19

alone have the indignity of travelling all the way. Would you

0:36:190:36:25

as a matter of fact, allow assisted suicide for people who were deeply

0:36:250:36:30

depressed as well as people who actually had physical illnesses

0:36:300:36:33

which is what is allowed in Dignitas? In that particular

0:36:330:36:36

instance good medical practice would be that if the person had

0:36:360:36:42

made a decision when they were competent and we have to decide the

0:36:420:36:47

capacity of the patient to make such a decision. In that case

0:36:470:36:50

depression may be a reason why we shouldn't allow such things. I

0:36:500:36:54

think it is a bit insulting and patronising to say we can't have

0:36:540:36:58

the right save guards. Medicine is not the same as it used to be even

0:36:580:37:04

50 years ago, tremendous advances. People dying of cancer don't die

0:37:040:37:09

painfully or in distress. I think it is very bad and difficult to see

0:37:090:37:17

patients who want to pass away and yet they have to linger on and have

0:37:170:37:20

indignity towards the end. We have seen what's been happening in care

0:37:200:37:25

homes, for instance, and that's another thing we need to consider.

0:37:250:37:28

APPLAUSE. The woman in the middle there.

0:37:280:37:33

In terms of patients who have depression, bipolar disorder, any

0:37:330:37:39

mental health issue, if they never feel they are going in a -- in a

0:37:390:37:44

sound mind what right do you have to say no, you can't have assisted

0:37:440:37:47

death, because if they never feel right in their mind and yet they

0:37:470:37:52

still feel this constant want to end their life, there's no need for

0:37:520:37:56

them to have to suffer through that. If they're not of a sound mind that

0:37:560:38:00

should have no relevance. If they want to die, they should have that

0:38:000:38:06

right. Michael Moore, do you agree?

0:38:060:38:16
0:38:160:38:18

don't. The simple answer to the proposition is no, I am not in

0:38:180:38:20

favour of assisted dying legislation, but that's not to

0:38:200:38:23

ignore the very complex issues that have already been debated here on

0:38:230:38:25

the panel today. I hope it's not patronising or otherwise to suggest

0:38:250:38:28

we all need to have confidence in the save guards. I understand the

0:38:280:38:32

medical profession as you rightly say, has changed out of recognition

0:38:320:38:36

over the last ten years, never mind the last 50 and we are confronted

0:38:360:38:44

as a society by challenges about the longevity of people that

0:38:440:38:50

weren't there sometime ago and we are all having to rekpf rubbish

0:38:500:38:57

rubbish re-- rekpf examine -- reexamine. We have to be receptive

0:38:570:39:00

to thinking about this and I haven't seen the film but I will

0:39:000:39:03

make sure I do. You, Sir. With the cost involved in

0:39:030:39:08

going to Switzerland to have this assisted suicide, and not allowing

0:39:080:39:15

people to do it at home, are we not going to end up instead of having a

0:39:150:39:19

ttwo-tier health service, a two- tier death service? The woman there.

0:39:190:39:25

I am a nurse and I would like people to - doctors and nurses to

0:39:250:39:28

be consulted on this, because any doctor or nurse that I have spoken

0:39:280:39:32

to would not be happy to end a patient's life, that's not what we

0:39:320:39:35

are trained for and not what we would be happy to do and the

0:39:350:39:38

gentleman that said that he was a doctor who said that was what he

0:39:380:39:43

would be happy to do, I think is very much in the minority of the

0:39:430:39:45

medical nursing professions. Dignitas do have a doctor, of

0:39:450:39:49

course. I think there's a lot of people here who are not happy to do

0:39:490:39:55

that. We are trained to do no harm to patients. The woman behind you.

0:39:550:39:59

Everyone deserves a right to die the way they want to die if they're

0:39:590:40:04

in terrible pain, if they have an illness which can't be cured. I

0:40:040:40:11

don't think it's fair for a Government, a court of law to

0:40:110:40:15

decide that person can't then go forward and do the dignified thing

0:40:150:40:22

in their own homes surrounded by their own family and with the

0:40:220:40:25

doctors' knowledge, safe that they're not being bullied into

0:40:250:40:30

something they don't wish to do, but doing something in a dignified

0:40:300:40:38

way they want to do. Alex Salmond. It's an incredibly difficult issue.

0:40:380:40:42

I saw the programme and the reason I saw the programme is that I

0:40:420:40:46

wanted to see it because we debated it in the Scots parliament, as

0:40:460:40:50

Margaret says and it may well be debated again in the Scots

0:40:500:40:54

parliament. So it's very much in terms of legislation a pressing

0:40:540:40:58

issue. I am against it. I think anybody who wants to see good

0:40:580:41:02

arguments on this could consult on the internet the Scots parliament

0:41:020:41:06

debate, led by Margaret McDonald because the range of arguments we

0:41:060:41:10

heard from the audience tonight and others were deployed, and deployed

0:41:100:41:14

very well on both sides of the argument. Perhaps for me it

0:41:140:41:19

crystalises on what the nurse and the doctor had to say. The nurse

0:41:190:41:24

said medical profession - there's a range of views in the profession. I

0:41:240:41:32

do accept your point. There are a lot of systems in place that do

0:41:320:41:36

help people to have a dignified and good death and absolutely there are

0:41:360:41:40

people who don't, but that's what people strive to do and maybe the

0:41:400:41:45

money could go into better training to have that. Well, I was going to

0:41:450:41:48

accept your point about the principle of no harm. That's quite

0:41:480:41:53

difficult for many people to reconcile in the medical profession

0:41:540:41:57

with the concept of assisted dying. That was one of the strong

0:41:570:42:00

arguments that came through in the debate. If I could say to the

0:42:000:42:04

doctor who I know genuinely passionately believes in his

0:42:040:42:10

opinion, that this question of when people decide was another point of

0:42:100:42:14

great strength in the debate. You said people would have to be

0:42:140:42:20

rationale, but what happens if they change their mind? It would be

0:42:200:42:24

possible as they get near the time of death, say well, when I was

0:42:240:42:28

rationale perhaps I was too pessimistic about things. I don't

0:42:280:42:32

make the point lightly, this was a matter we looked at in great detail

0:42:320:42:37

and eventually the parliament by a majority decided that we couldn't

0:42:370:42:40

see the save guards there that would apply in every case and they

0:42:400:42:46

would have to apply in every case to justify legalisation. The case

0:42:470:42:56
0:42:570:43:03

in the film, the man who was killing himself, was absolutely

0:43:030:43:08

absolutely compus men tis. This is an issue I thought about quite hard.

0:43:080:43:15

I don't know what I think. Rather like Margaret, I worry about the

0:43:150:43:18

safeguards and I don't think Margaret was thinking about

0:43:180:43:20

safeguards from doctors, I think she was thinking about safeguards

0:43:200:43:26

that might arise from families or very elderly people might - as they

0:43:260:43:34

often say, I am a burden to you, and it might encourage people to

0:43:340:43:38

encourage people to kill themselves prematurely. The reason I thought

0:43:380:43:46

about it quite hard is my mother died last month from a terminal

0:43:460:43:50

illness and - here in the northeast, and what was remarkable, because

0:43:500:43:54

when you are told that someone's cancer, your immediate thought is

0:43:540:43:57

are they going to suffer, how long is it going to be, is this going to

0:43:570:44:01

be terrible? The thing that really impressed me, the point made by the

0:44:010:44:09

lady over there, was just how fantastic the care which is

0:44:090:44:14

provided by the nursing and doctors profession.

0:44:140:44:23

And they are able to manage pain in a way that was not possible many,

0:44:230:44:27

many years ago. So on balance I'm not persuaded that we can have a

0:44:270:44:32

right to die that might not be open to abuse and might not put pressure

0:44:320:44:38

on families. But at the same time, if I think of

0:44:380:44:43

myself, if I thought I were to suffer from dementia and not know

0:44:430:44:48

who my family are, I'm thinking might that be an option for me. So

0:44:480:44:54

it is a very, very difficult issue. As Margaret said, it is trying to

0:44:540:44:58

balance the safeguard issues, but we should be grateful to the

0:44:580:45:01

developments that have gone on in the hospice movement and in our

0:45:010:45:08

health service in helping people to cope with these dreadful terminal

0:45:080:45:11

illnesses, which have been magnificent, and have made things

0:45:110:45:21
0:45:210:45:26

very much easier. Also, the organisations like the Marie Cure

0:45:260:45:31

Cancer Care and MacMillan. They have made the experience for

0:45:310:45:36

families much less horrendous than it might otherwise be.

0:45:360:45:41

A couple of more points. Briefly if you would. It is not

0:45:410:45:46

just all about terminal care. It is care for people who have had severe

0:45:460:45:49

strokes, things like that, they could live for a long, long time

0:45:490:45:54

but don't get the support that you get in terminal illnesses.

0:45:540:46:00

Your view on the issue of assisted killing? I personally would not

0:46:000:46:04

want to live for years and years with a really bad quality of life.

0:46:040:46:09

I would like the option of assisted suicide.

0:46:090:46:14

If a person chooses if they want to end their life, is it not better

0:46:140:46:19

for them to end in a dignified American with the help of the

0:46:190:46:24

professionals as opposed to an overdose or are a badly done

0:46:240:46:33

hanging? APPLAUSE. This question is relevant to where

0:46:330:46:37

we are, the oil capital of the UK, Aberdeen.

0:46:370:46:42

Can George Osborne propose the proposed tax on the North Sea oil

0:46:420:46:46

profits smart when it is estimated that it will cost this region in

0:46:460:46:51

excress of 15,000 jobs? This was the Chancellor of the Exchequer

0:46:510:46:59

speakingen ot BBC? APPLAUSE. -- speaking on the BBC? APPLAUSE.

0:46:590:47:05

He said that he had restkprinted thing ace round tax, he --

0:47:050:47:09

redistributed things around tax and cut fuel duty.

0:47:090:47:14

Michael Moore, you are here for the Government, was he right? This is a

0:47:140:47:20

hard place to make the arguments, but let me set the context. The

0:47:200:47:23

context of this, we were talking earlier on about the hard-pressed

0:47:230:47:29

way in which people are coping with inflation and everything else. The

0:47:290:47:34

context of this was the prospect of us putting fuel duty up further to

0:47:340:47:37

plug the holes in the public finances that we have been doing

0:47:370:47:42

for the last year. We had a serious problem that people had seen the

0:47:420:47:46

fuel prices in cars going up week after week after week for the past

0:47:460:47:51

year. We made the choice that the economy of the United Kingdom as a

0:47:510:47:56

whole, businesses across the UK, individual drivers across the UK,

0:47:560:48:01

they needed a bit of support. So we decided rather than increasing the

0:48:010:48:04

fuel duty as had been planned by the last Labour government, we

0:48:040:48:13

would reduce it. When you say "we" you don't mean we

0:48:130:48:19

in the sense that you were there, did he ask you, the Secretary of

0:48:190:48:23

State for Scotland what the impact might be? The Treasury decides the

0:48:230:48:27

budgets, that is right. This is the way it will always be. How many

0:48:270:48:32

jobs will be lost as a result, the questioner said 15,000? The point

0:48:320:48:37

is that across the economy as a whole we are doing what we can to

0:48:370:48:40

help smaus businesses and large alike and individuals going about

0:48:400:48:47

their daily business to cope with the extra pressures that are coming

0:48:470:48:50

through. We are in Aberdeen, many people

0:48:500:48:54

here may be working or depending on the oil industry, the question was

0:48:540:49:00

that 15,000 jobs were to be lost, specifically by what the Chancellor

0:49:000:49:04

did? I don't accept that figure. The key thing, the effect of this

0:49:040:49:08

increase in tax will still be that after tax pro-ities for the oil

0:49:080:49:12

companies will be higher than when they were planning investment four

0:49:130:49:18

or five years ago, that there will be substantial profits for those

0:49:180:49:22

oil companies and on some of the specific details we have to

0:49:220:49:27

continue to talk to the industry, so looking at how to encourage

0:49:270:49:33

investment in some of the more marginal gas fields, looking at a

0:49:330:49:38

long-term stable tax structure for the oil... So no job losses? If

0:49:380:49:43

they are making more profit, why lose the jobs? I believe that there

0:49:430:49:46

will be continued significant investment in the North Sea gas

0:49:460:49:51

sector for many years to come, so there should be.

0:49:510:49:57

Sir Tom Hunter? I think it is a mistake. The North Sea oil and gas

0:49:570:50:02

industry contributes �13 billion to the UK Treasury, 400,000 jobs. I'm

0:50:020:50:08

for less tax, not more tax. Because I believe, then, that these oil

0:50:080:50:13

companies will create more jobs. The fact of the matter is we live

0:50:130:50:19

in a global world. What these investment decisions are made upon

0:50:190:50:24

is fiscal certainty. This was a bolt from the blue for the North

0:50:240:50:28

Sea industry it was a shock, not a pleasant one, either. Therefore,

0:50:280:50:33

when these guys sit in their offices around the globe, whether

0:50:330:50:38

it is Hewitton, Aberdeen, wherever it may be, they allocate capital.

0:50:380:50:43

They now look at the UK and the North Sea and say there is an extra

0:50:430:50:48

risk as there is no fiscal certainty. They might just allocate

0:50:480:50:51

their capital to somewhere else in the world.

0:50:510:50:55

Don't they have fiscal certainty with the increase in the 12%? It

0:50:550:51:00

has gone from 20% to 32, they know where they are? They know where

0:51:000:51:03

they are today, but my understanding is that the oil and

0:51:030:51:07

the gas UK were given public and private assurances that nothing was

0:51:070:51:13

to change and it did change. So it might change again? Yes. So

0:51:130:51:17

when allocating their capital, the jobs may go elsewhere, there the

0:51:170:51:22

short-term tax that the UK Treasury will receive from this doesn't make

0:51:220:51:25

up for the long-term jobs that could be lost here.

0:51:250:51:35
0:51:350:51:39

Following on from Tom's point, it was such a shock to the operators

0:51:400:51:45

in the North Sea, was that Michael's boss, Nick Clegg was in

0:51:450:51:49

be Dean before the budget was announced and was asked directly

0:51:490:51:53

about the changes and did not come forward to say anything. Either he

0:51:530:51:58

did not know about the budget or he did not want to discuss them in

0:51:580:52:05

Aberdeen, with the senior management, the operators? Michael

0:52:050:52:09

Moore, do you not believe that by reducing the fuel duty by a few

0:52:090:52:15

pence on a majority of people, you have placed a huej burden on a

0:52:150:52:19

minority of people in Aberdeen. Aberdeen is paying for cheaper

0:52:190:52:24

petrol for everybody else? It is not just Aberdeen. Centrica, for

0:52:240:52:28

example, they have said that they are not to take the gas from the

0:52:280:52:37

Morecambe Bay... Field? That will have an impact. Look, I think we

0:52:370:52:42

are paying far too much in tax. You have to work until this month

0:52:420:52:45

before you start actually working for yourself from January to June

0:52:450:52:50

it is going to the Government. One of the things we have to relearn in

0:52:500:52:54

this country if you put up tax rates you get less revenue. The tax

0:52:540:53:00

on the North Sea is a classic case of where the additional tax, yes,

0:53:000:53:05

you get it in the short-term, but it results in less revenue.

0:53:050:53:10

So this was a mistake by your Chancellor? Yes, it was a mistake.

0:53:100:53:17

APPLAUSE. And also to say that it was going

0:53:170:53:22

to be used, the revenues used to reduce the fuel duty, who is

0:53:220:53:27

providing the fuel? The oil companies. I believe that the level

0:53:270:53:31

of tax now is, perhaps somebody in the audience can help me, but it is

0:53:310:53:37

getting on for 80%. You cannot expect people to take risky, long-

0:53:370:53:41

term, investment decisions unless you have a stable and predictable

0:53:410:53:45

tax structure that is fair. We need to learn that lesson again. We have

0:53:450:53:50

to be more tax competitive. I understand the hall that George was

0:53:500:53:58

in, but if he wanted to reduce fuel duty, he should have rused --

0:53:580:54:01

reduced expenditure. We can see the coalition falling

0:54:010:54:05

apart in front of our eyes. I am not minister.

0:54:050:54:09

I know. But everybody agrees around this

0:54:090:54:17

table, apart from Michael Moore. The lady that asked was

0:54:170:54:22

economically smart. That was daft as it will cost 15,000 jobs and

0:54:220:54:28

this was economically daft if it stays as it is, it will cost the UK

0:54:280:54:33

Charles Clarker revenue over the next ten years, perhaps up to �10

0:54:330:54:37

billion. I don't mind a tax structure that says when the oil

0:54:370:54:42

prices are high, then those gathering in the profits should be

0:54:420:54:48

taxed more, but this tax attacks the marginal fields, the oilfields,

0:54:480:54:54

the difficult place. We have put in three proposals to the UK

0:54:540:54:57

government. Michael Moore was not told by George Osborne, he was not

0:54:570:55:05

even told by his colleague, Danny lngser, the chief Treasury

0:55:050:55:10

executive, to explain this notion. We have put in three proposals to

0:55:100:55:14

the UK Treasury to mitigate the impact of the tax. Given the damage

0:55:140:55:18

that this one taxation decision by the UK Government has done, maybe

0:55:180:55:22

oil and gas is too important an commodity for Scotland to be left

0:55:220:55:28

to the machinations of the Westminster government? APPLAUSE.

0:55:280:55:31

Margaret Curran, at the beginning of this programme, you said you

0:55:310:55:36

were in favour of Ed Balls' prose als to cut VAT by 2.5%, do you

0:55:360:55:43

think that this increase in tax was wrong? I will take great pleasure

0:55:430:55:48

in quoting Michael in the next Treasury questions. I will happily

0:55:480:55:52

quote you for once. I will certainly do that.

0:55:520:55:57

I'm aware of the debate. The difference of the impact it will

0:55:570:56:01

have on oil and gas, the real impact it will have. What concerned

0:56:020:56:07

me about this, it was a rushed announcement. There was no

0:56:070:56:13

consultation with the companies. They were caught unaware. I did not

0:56:130:56:18

know the point about Nick Clegg and that is the hallmark of this

0:56:180:56:22

government. Rushing legislation, creating mistakes, having to

0:56:220:56:27

backtrack. So, why has not Ed Balls called for the repeal of this?

0:56:270:56:33

will have a word with this. I don't know, he is focused on VAT, but I

0:56:330:56:37

would agree with Michael. Everything is a tax cut. It is the

0:56:370:56:43

only answer. You are faced with a cut... I did not say that.

0:56:430:56:46

To Michael Moore, I don't think that a politician should be allowed

0:56:470:56:50

to say that they don't accept the figures without an alternative

0:56:500:56:58

figure. I hear it time and time again, it is a tireless cliche.

0:56:580:57:03

There has been no decrease in petrol prices, where we stay the

0:57:030:57:08

petrol is �1.40 a litre. It is cils considering that they are having

0:57:080:57:11

their tax as well. Are you guilty of saying that you

0:57:110:57:17

don't agree with the figures, and is this a political cliche were

0:57:170:57:22

faced with embarrassments? I thought that you may say that.

0:57:220:57:30

We will hear the full explanation later. Next week we are coming from

0:57:300:57:40
0:57:400:57:43

Thank you all on the panel. Thank you, all of you for coming here to

0:57:430:57:49

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