23/06/2011 Question Time


23/06/2011

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've come to Huddersfield and welcome to Question Time.

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On our panel here, the Euro-sceptic Conservative backbencher who twice

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challenged for the leadership of his party, John Redwood. The

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Liberal Democrats Transport Minister, Norman Baker. The

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economist Rachel Reeves, now an MP. The comedian and writer, the star

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of Peep Show and many other programmes, David Mitchell and the

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television presenter, Fern Britton. Thank you. Now let's take our first

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question, from Irene Harrop, please. Why shouldn't we let Greece just go

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bust? John Redwood? Well, I think Britain

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should make it very clear that we tonight wish to be any part of the

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attempted bail out. The Government in part is doing that. If Greece

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has to go bankrupt, some would say she is already because she cannot

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meet her bills in the normal way, it is best if it is managed. My

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worry is they are going to cobble together another package of loans

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which Greece cannot afford. They will enforce more horrible

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austerity on the Greek people, which they don't want. There could

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be more political riots and trouble in Greece. Later on there'll be a

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bankruptcy, when more has been lent and false hopes created. Your

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answer is let them go bust now? would say manage the crisis now.

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That means doing something different to what Mrs Merkel and

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Sarkozy would want to do. My advice would be to go for a different plan.

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You need a plan to manage the debt. They will not be able to repay all

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on the terms which it has been granted. You need to have some

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proposals which will allow growth in the Greek economy. The current

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lethal mixture of cuts and no devaluation is going to mean more

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trouble for Greece in the months ahead. They'll borrow more in the

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first six months of this year than they did last year as a whole. They

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are meant to be on a programme to slim the deficit. The plan is not

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working. They need to do something else. Should they get out of the

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euro, go their own way and be on their own and save all this

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trouble? If you look back at what happened to Lehman Brothers when

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they collapsed, that was one bank on Wall Street, in America. The

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repercussions were felt around the world. I fear that if Greece

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collapses, if it defaults on its debt, if it leaves the euro, that's

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not just going to have ramifications for people in Greece.

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It'll have massive ramifications for people in the UK. Half of our

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trade is with Europe. Our banks have exposure to banks across

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Europe. I think that while we shouldn't contribute to any bail

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out for Greece, I think a solution does need to be found if we're not

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going to have another global crisis. I would echo what John said. You

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know, Greece has been forced down this route of austerity. They've

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had to come back for a second bail out. Unless Greece starts to ren

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rate growth it will not be able -- generate growth it will not be able

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pay back this either. If the economy is stuck in recession it

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will not grow again. That is what we're having here in the UK. This

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is an attack on the UK Government? Greece had a bail out a year ago.

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It's had to come back again because the first didn't work. It said cut

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spending, increase taxes and you'll get out of these problems. Well,

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the Greek economy continues to shrink. They are not able to pay

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back their loans. What they need and Britain needs is a strategy for

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jobs. If we're condemning more people to the strap heap and

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there's not jobs available it will be harder to pay back the loans and

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deficit. We need a strategy for jobs in this country, but also for

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Greece. APPLAUSE

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We come to our third politician - Norman Baker, you're in the

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Government. They are there in Europe trying to decide what to do.

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What would you do? Should we let them go bust? The answer is it

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would be very unwelcome. It would have repercussions for the UK and

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more widely as well. But, the fact of the matter is, this is a

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eurozone problem, essentially, primary rilly, it is for the

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eurozone countries, who have that currency to sort out initially. I

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don't think we should be any part of any bail out. It is not our

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currency to deal with. Also we have an interest in making sure that

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Greece doesn't go down the pan. If it did, it would destabilise the

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our and cause problems with our trade, with oh -- the euro and

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cause problems with our trade. It is in our interest to have a stable

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euro and stable European Union. I hope the European Union countries

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in the eurozone are able to find a package, which not only makes sense,

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which does create jobs in Greece, which the Greek people recognise as

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making sense and are prepared to accept. Part of the problem has

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been the reluctance of some in Greece to recognise the need for

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severe measures. Surely Greece needs to be given money by other

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euro countries if they are going to survive or she needs to pull out so

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she can devalue and compete herself back into prosperity. Would we with

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some who gave money? No. If you need a single currency you need a

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single currency to back it up. about the stabilisation. We should

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not go near using that. We can stop doing it, do you say? It is

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majority voting t thing you dislike so much - it's majority voting. We

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could be compelled. Britain has to be extremely tough and say, we

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don't think this applies any more. There'll have to be changes in the

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treaties and arrangements. Britain has a veto on those. We need to use

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that opportunity to say we're not paying those bills and if you want

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a single currency you have to have a single country to back it up and

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send money to poor parts of the areas which are suffering because

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of the single currency. Aidan O'Brien? I wish I could -- Fern

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Britton? I wish I could understand it as well as you all do. We are in

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this all together as world citizens, let alone partners, at least work

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the EU. Earlier John was talking to me about the EU and the IMF. Now

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the IMF has obviously some cohesion with the EU.

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Pots of cash, does it? Do we inject money into the IMF which helps them

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It is lend 30 in the first package. The real crime was a European

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political elite tried to force countries as diverse as Greece and

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Portugal in with Germany and France - I mean, who thought that was a

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good idea? David Mitchell? probably thought that was a good

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idea, to be honest. APPLAUSE

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I mean I wasn't directly consulted, but I would have gone along with it.

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I felt that by Sod's law the fact we were staying out of the euro

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would mean it would turn out to be a good thing. Are you going to

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apologise now? All of those decisions I made back then, I

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withdraw. But I think this decision about what we do now, or what

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Europe does know is one of those decisions with -- now, is one of

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those decisions we should take with hind site later. If it turns out

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that Greece is going to go bust any way and essentially they are going

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to default and that will trigger a global crisis, then we have to have

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it at some point, we might as well before we have injected billions

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and billions uselessly. If we can stop it becoming an Leighmen's

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brother, we -- a Lehman's brothers, we might find it money well spent.

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I have no idea. Do you? They've had a horrible black market for many

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decades. They have avoided paying taxes A lot of the Greek people are

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being taxed properly. That is nothing to do with us. That is

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their Government sorting their own people. We have been brought in to

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bail them out. I don't think it is right. You, Sir, on the left?

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don't feel that Rachel Reeves ought to have been in Mr Brown's

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Government and talking about lending money. If he had been more

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prudent we would not have been in the position we are now too.

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APPLAUSE She only came in after the election.

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She could not have been. Let my say -- me say, this was a global crisis.

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Every country has seen, as a result, the budget deficit and debt

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increase. When the crisis hit our debt was the second lowest in the

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G7. David Cameron and the Conservatives supported plans until

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2008. The massive increase in the deficit and debt was due to

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irresponsible decisions by bankers in the UK, but also globally. That

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is why we've got the mess, not just in the UK, but around the world now.

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This wasn't global...: APPLAUSE Places like Australia, Canada,

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India, they coped well. This was a western crisis, particularly acute

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in the United Kingdom, because the Government grossly overspent and

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because they didn't regulate the banks properly.

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It seems there is a fundamental weakness in the euro, which covers

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such a diverse range of countries, where individual economies are not

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able to either devalue or set their own interest rates, which are two

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major tools for recovery. Let me go back to the question now

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and then we'll move on. There are a couple of points I just want to

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raise. My question is about Greece, not the mess we're in or not in.

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It's.: When you say, you know, we're not in the euro, so we can

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effectively opt-out, or it's not our problem, however we did put

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money into Ireland - if I'm not mistaken. They're in the euro. On

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the news, we hear of Greece selling their assets, selling all their

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companies, their buildings. What happens when they've sold up?

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There'll be no more buildings, no more institutions to sell. So,

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they're not going to be able to raise any money to pay anybody back.

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Surely it is better to bite the bullet now! The idea of the euro

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was you'd have a number of countries together. If one got into

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trouble there was prowess there for others to help out. That would

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provide stability, so they would help each other out. I recognise

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there are two sorts of countries in the euro, those performing well and

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those less well. It is a tension within the euro. A lot of our trade

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with Ireland, it's one of our biggest trading partners, there's

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long historical relationships there. It is in our interest to make sure

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the Irish economy recoverers. far down the line? Spain next?

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Portugal next? While we are worrying about our own little bit,

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the euro's going to take us to the cleaners.

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Do you have any consolation for the lady? She is right. The scheme is

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very badly constructed. It's going to lose a lot of money and destroy

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a lot of jobs and livelihoods. I am very worried. In this country as

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well? They do owe.... No, not in this country. They owe it to us to

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hammer out a solution to the underlying problem. Greece is

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insolvent. She doesn't need another loan. She needs to do something

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more fundamental than borrow more money. We must move on. If you

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A question please from Sharika Saeed.

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Would the panel be happy to accept a lower pension, have to work

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longer to get it and pay more for it? The predicament of many people.

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Fern Britton? I have thought about this a lot. I am in that category

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that I will be one of the women who As a feminist, we have fought a

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long battle to receive the same money for the same job as a band.

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That hasn't, as we know, happened 100%. Some kind of benevolent

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sexism has allowed women to retire a little bit earlier. Now that has

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been turned on its head. Maybe as feminists we have to bite the

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bullet and take the rough with the smooth. I'm not sure. I think

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they're Ratu issues. There is the issue of what is happening to the

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state pension for women and the issue of public sector pensions.

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Let's concentrate on the state pension average and what is

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happening there. I totally agree that it is right that the state

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pension age for men and women is equalised. As we live longer, we

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know we will have to work longer before we can get the state pension,

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if it is going to be affordable. If we are going to make changes to the

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state pension age, you have to give people the time they need to

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prepare for that change. That change should be spread across all

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of us, it should be that one particular group has to wait much

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longer before they get they state pension. The problem with the

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Government proposals is that 500,000 women will have to wait for

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up to two years longer. These were men, aged 56 and 57 now, just a few

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years away from retirement, that is what I think is particularly unfair.

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These women don't have huge private pensions. Many of them have taken

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time off to bring up a family. Many of them are now caring for elderly

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parents or grandchildren. To moved the goalposts for the second time,

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so close to the retirement date, that is what I think is unjust. So

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move that, yes, but give fair In general terms we have to

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recognise that we are all living longer, which is a very good thing.

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The number of working people, compared to the number of

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pensioners, the ratio is changing. There were nine people working by

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every pensioner in 1926. There are three people working for every

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pensioner now. Clearly, the system is becoming different to manage and

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unbalanced. It has to change. If we want to have decent pension

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arrangements for the future for people, to make sure there is a

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decent pension to live on, we have to make sure sufficient money is

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there. That means raising the pension age. It's something that

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all three parties have historically recognised. Rachel raises a

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perfectly fair point about the way it might affect women who are 57 or

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thereabouts. My understanding is that there are 33,000 people in

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that category, 1% of the women affected that are badly affected.

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The Work and Pensions secretary Iain Duncan-Smith said this week

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that he recognised there was an issue there, and was willing to see

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if anything to be done to ease that problem. I think we are trying to

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approach this matter in a sensible and sensitive way. There is nothing

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particularly dogmatic about this. It's an issue that I hope all three

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parties can work together to bring forward proposals on. That includes

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the point racial has raised. -- Rachel. Sharika Saeed, were you

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thinking about women that are about 57, that were going to be affected,

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or people in public sector pensions? In public sector pensions.

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The people going on strike in a week's time and others? David

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Mitchell? Basically, there is a regrettable financial reality

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underlining nests that, ultimately, because people are living longer

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and because more of the population have retired, we need to pay them a

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out for less time. But that doesn't mean that it isn't horribly unfair

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for people that have planned their lives expecting to retire for a

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certain time and spend a certain amount of money, suddenly it is

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like climbing a mountain and you realise that there is another climb

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to go. That is very unfair. Obviously, there are very unfair

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things in the whole situation. The average age of death is going up,

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but not at the same rate in all sectors of society. For some people,

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they can retire at 66 and expect 20 years of pleasure. For other people,

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they would be very lucky to get that. For less lucky people, they

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would be lucky to get that... If that makes sense! I think what this

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highlights is how unfair our society is in lots of ways. You

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can't make the pensions is unfair because society is unfair. Society

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isn't fair on women that have taken time out to raise children and

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don't qualify for the same pensions as men. It's not fair on people

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that work hard for low wages in areas of the country where life

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expectancy is not going up, who have to retire later and pay more

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or pensions and will not enjoy a long retirement. Really, the core

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of the unfairness is not the cake - - pensions, it's a myriad of other

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For those of us that work in the private sector, we have already had

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these imposed on ourselves anyway. We already have to work longer, pay

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more. For me, it's the simple fact that we have to get with the Times

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and the public sector has to catch up with the reforms that have

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already happened in the private The point about biting the bullet,

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may be that we should have the same pension ages as men, I think we

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should all have also have the same pay as men, so when it does come to

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retiring we are on the same pay bracket. Equality of pay has to be

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100% now, it's ridiculous. John Redwood? As a well-paid City public

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sector worker, I think I should work longer and make a bigger

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contribution to my attention. Your viewers will be delighted to know

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that is what is going to happen. Subject to the electors, because

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they might disagree, I think some of us are willing to go one for a

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little bit longer because we understand people are living a lot

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longer and that it is not affordable to offer people 20 years

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plus at the decent pension rates we would qualify for, when people

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thought it would be 10 or 15 years when that they were planned. Do you

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get a final-salary scheme? Yes. Does anybody else get final-salary

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here? You know that the public sector is going to go over to an

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average scheme. I haven't seen the details of what the changes are

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going to be. I think we are, David. You are not going to be protected?

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I don't think so. We certainly have the highest contribution rate in

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the public sector, which is entirely appropriate. Public sector

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schemes are a lot more generous than most private sector schemes.

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Most private sector schemes have been closed down, the final salary

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ones. We do have to do something about it, it's right that the

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Government is going to do something to protect people on low earnings.

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They shouldn't be hit, it should be those on better earnings. We have

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to take a series of measures to make things affordable. The woman

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in the orange... Apricot? I don't know what colour it is. You, madam.

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While I agree with equality for women, and the person down here

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that spoke for equality on pay also, I also agree with some of the

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things David has said about unfairness in society. I thought

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that equality was about changing those unfairnesses, not increasing

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them. Also, it's not about equalling those in the private

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sector, because the pay is not equal in the private sector as it

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is in the public sector. So, why should the pensions be the same

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question that is that true? lower. On average, it is lower.

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says it is lower in the private sector. The private sector has

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recently overtaken, after a good period of years of growth. The man

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in spectacles, on the 4th row? public sector problem built up

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gradually. It deserves a gradual submission. It is political

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ineptitude that has not caused a gradual improvement over the last

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20 or 30 years. This knee-jerk reaction is just too harsh. This is

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all parties, you're talking about? The woman on the right. What about

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people in their 60s, who at work as prison guards? A 60 year-old prison

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guard trying to hold back a violent 20 year-old inmate, how does that

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work? In terms of what? Because he is a public sector worker. And he

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has to stay working? He has to keep working in his 60s, dealing with

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that the 20 year-old. I think it's always been accepted that there

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will be exceptions to this for hazardous and difficult tasks.

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There are tasks that are not as severe as you are suggesting in

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prisons, so it might be a distribution of duties. And the

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public sector worker in the fire service and I already pay 11% of my

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wage to a pension scheme. Its proposed I pay another 3% over the

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next three years, starting from next April. I'm sick of being... I

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feel like I am being treated like a second-class citizen, it that this

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problem we have got is actually the public sector's fault when it isn't.

0:22:510:22:54

You need to go after some of the private sector, I'm not saying all

0:22:540:22:59

of the private sector, but the people that God is in the mass --

0:22:590:23:09

got us in the mess in the first Let me say, it is absolutely not

0:23:090:23:14

about attacking the public sector. It absolutely isn't. I hope we have

0:23:140:23:18

all got tremendous respect for those that work in the fire service,

0:23:180:23:21

police, ambulance and all of the other emergency services, indeed

0:23:210:23:25

the teachers and everything else. What it is about is recognising

0:23:250:23:27

that there is a problem with funding pensions in the public

0:23:270:23:31

sector and we have to address that. The gentleman at there is quite

0:23:310:23:34

right to say that it has been left on the back-burner for 20 years,

0:23:340:23:37

when it should have been addressed earlier. We have tried to get

0:23:370:23:42

cross-party agreement. John Hutton, former Labour minister, has drawn

0:23:420:23:46

up the proposals. By and large, the Government has agreed to adopt them.

0:23:460:23:51

We are trying to get a fair deal, protecting the age is already in

0:23:510:23:54

place, for people that have accrued their pensions up to now, a fair

0:23:540:23:57

deal for the future that balances the need to make sure we can afford

0:23:570:24:02

it and that somebody get a decent patient -- pension. There is no

0:24:020:24:06

negotiation, is there? Danny Alexander has more or less said,

0:24:060:24:10

this is what we are going to do, like it or lump it. He hasn't said

0:24:100:24:16

that. He was taken out of context. That must be his arrogant character.

0:24:160:24:20

We are basing our proposals on the Labour minister, John Hutton. We

0:24:200:24:25

are trying to get cross-party consensus. John Hutton, the man who

0:24:250:24:29

did the report, said that the Government need to get back around

0:24:290:24:32

the negotiating table and that any solution needs to be negotiated.

0:24:320:24:36

The gentleman from the private sector who says that it is right

0:24:360:24:40

that the public sector reforms, that is absolutely right. But what

0:24:400:24:44

the Government are trying to do, it seems to me, his force a solution

0:24:440:24:47

on the public sector, whereas what they should be doing is getting

0:24:470:24:52

around the negotiating table. Nobody wants strikes next week.

0:24:520:24:55

People in the private sector who rely on public services do not want

0:24:550:24:58

strikes. I taught to dinner ladies, teachers in my constituency, they

0:24:580:25:03

want to go to work and do their job next Thursday. But they also feel

0:25:030:25:07

that the Government, as you said, is pre-empting negotiations and

0:25:070:25:11

forcing the deal rather than negotiating. Rather than going to

0:25:110:25:14

television studios, as Danny Alexander did last Friday and say

0:25:140:25:17

what the outcome of the negotiations was going to be, he

0:25:170:25:21

needs to sit down with people under fire service, with teachers, and

0:25:210:25:24

negotiate a deal. That is what people and the public sector want,

0:25:240:25:34
0:25:340:25:34

and what people in the private Just before we leave this, John

0:25:340:25:38

Redwood, as a Conservative backbencher, you are nodding in

0:25:380:25:42

agreement with what Rachel Reeves is saying. You think the Government

0:25:420:25:46

haven't handled it properly? think they need to negotiate

0:25:460:25:49

earnestly and sensibly with their workforce. I think it's difficult

0:25:490:25:52

to read it through the media, better to do it face-to-face.

0:25:520:25:55

Myself, having some experience of industrial relations in other

0:25:550:25:59

contexts, I think the media is often wonderful for the media, but

0:25:590:26:03

not helpful for the negotiations. I would ask them to sit down in

0:26:030:26:08

private with their employees and respect them. Can I just add, I

0:26:080:26:10

agree with that but I think the Government has been quite cynical

0:26:100:26:14

recently in the way it has encouraged people to demonise the

0:26:140:26:21

public sector. David Cameron has made them out as being bureaucrats.

0:26:210:26:24

In the way the conversation has happened, people are saying, I am

0:26:240:26:30

in the public sector, I am in the private sector, never the twain

0:26:300:26:34

will show respect for each other. I think that's a shame and it's not

0:26:340:26:38

the right approach. It needs to be properly negotiated. At times, the

0:26:390:26:42

Government has tried to make public opinion turned against the public

0:26:430:26:46

sector and make people think of people and the public sector as

0:26:460:26:56
0:26:560:26:58

Do you accept John Redwood's rebuke about the way this is being handled

0:26:580:27:03

by the coalition? I don't. I accept that there is a perception that is

0:27:030:27:06

happening. I think there is a willingness to negotiate properly

0:27:060:27:10

and sit down with people. I also don't expect -- accept that there

0:27:100:27:14

is an attempt to demonise the public sector. It is very important

0:27:140:27:18

in this country and keeps our society together, why would we want

0:27:180:27:23

to demonise it? Let's go on to another question from Jackie Grant.

0:27:230:27:33
0:27:330:27:33

British troops are pulling out daily -- early out of Afghanistan.

0:27:330:27:40

374 men and women died in vain? troops are pulled out early? Is

0:27:400:27:49

that it, will 374 men and women have died in vain? Well, I think

0:27:490:27:55

the situation in Afghanistan is, in many ways, a very regrettable one.

0:27:550:27:59

People talk about the reason we went in there, in a very confused

0:27:590:28:04

way. We talk about rebuilding Afghanistan as a country, which

0:28:040:28:09

wasn't the reason we went in there. We went in there to fight global

0:28:090:28:12

terrorism. I'm not sure whether that is what we should have done,

0:28:120:28:16

to fight global terrorism. I'm not sure that has done any good. Now we

0:28:160:28:21

are there, you see a country with a lot of problems and I am sure that

0:28:210:28:25

our troops and the American troops are doing their best to make it a

0:28:260:28:28

better country. Whether that is an appropriate role for Western

0:28:280:28:33

countries, or doing any good in terms of our initial aims of

0:28:330:28:38

fighting terrorism, I don't know. Should we stick there? Or should we

0:28:380:28:43

start withdrawing, like the American president is proposing?

0:28:430:28:48

think we have set a timetable to leave. The American President has

0:28:480:28:51

haste and to that somewhat. My feeling is that we probably do need

0:28:510:28:56

to leave because it's not a country that it is our role to rebuild. I

0:28:560:29:00

hope we will have done more good than harm at the end of that. But I

0:29:000:29:05

don't really know. John Redwood, the implication in the question is

0:29:050:29:15
0:29:150:29:16

Well, I hope it will prove not to be so. We'll only know how good it

0:29:160:29:21

was after we've withdrawn and see what kind of political society

0:29:210:29:24

exists in Afghanistan. I am sure it was well intended. Our troops have

0:29:240:29:28

been brave and loyal. They have done enormously positive work. I

0:29:280:29:33

would not want to detract from that commitment they have made. I am one

0:29:330:29:36

who wants us out as quickly as possible. I want the Government

0:29:360:29:40

here and in America to get on with it. There must be a limit as to how

0:29:400:29:45

much training we need to give the forces. The right people to police

0:29:450:29:50

Afghanistan are Afghans. We have spent a lot of time and trouble

0:29:500:29:55

training their army. Can we please get out of there as quickly as

0:29:550:29:59

possible? You imply by that that''ve done as much as we can do

0:29:590:30:05

- is that what you feel? Some of the servicemen, Richard Dannatt,

0:30:050:30:12

for example, is saying he says this is not done for political reasons.

0:30:120:30:16

Implying it. And Obama because he has elections coming up next year?

0:30:160:30:20

There'll always be brave and talented soldiers what will say we

0:30:200:30:25

could do a good job if we could carry on and the Afghans are not

0:30:250:30:31

perfect yet. That is true. I don't deny the honesty of the advice they

0:30:310:30:36

are giving. The best is the enemy of the good. Let the Afghans get on

0:30:360:30:41

wit. Do the best job we can and get out and leave it to these large

0:30:410:30:47

forces the Afghans have. Fern Britton? It's a very dangerous

0:30:470:30:53

place. Your question was did those 374 servicemen and women die in

0:30:530:30:59

vain. If I was a parent I would say, God, I hope not. We know how brave

0:30:590:31:03

those people are. However, if my child was fighting there now, I'd

0:31:030:31:08

be saying, can you please get out yesterday, because I want you home.

0:31:080:31:13

That's a purely personal, you know, feeling about it. I think it boils

0:31:130:31:19

down to, obviously we hope we've trained the Afghan police force

0:31:190:31:23

well enough to look after themselves. It boils down to money.

0:31:230:31:27

We can't afford it. We saw the price of Libya today. I was working

0:31:270:31:33

out, it's something like �3 million a day - the conflict in Libya has

0:31:330:31:36

cost us already. We were told that was only going to cost, just in the

0:31:360:31:41

tens of millions, it's now in the hundreds and there's no real end in

0:31:410:31:47

sight. We said we'd be there six months. We've done three months.

0:31:470:31:51

Can we afford this? Can we afford any of it this? Are we talking to

0:31:520:31:55

these people. We talk about, there are negotiations happening. But

0:31:560:32:01

talk is so much cheaper and easier and friend liar and, I know this

0:32:010:32:06

sound a little bit wishy-washy, but surely it's better than going in

0:32:060:32:11

and bombing civilians, killing our own troops with friendly fire and

0:32:110:32:19

everything else. APPLAUSE

0:32:190:32:25

The figures seem to be imcome pabl. It is interesting to note it is 374

0:32:250:32:30

servicemen. What about the hundreds and thousands of innocent Afghanis

0:32:300:32:36

who have died? What about them? APPLAUSE Norman Baker? Every

0:32:360:32:39

Wednesday in the House of Commons, we hear the Prime Minister stand up

0:32:390:32:44

and read out the names of British soldiers what've died in action,

0:32:440:32:51

whether in -- who've died in action, whether in Iraq or Afghanistan. It

0:32:510:32:54

is people making the ultimate sacrifice for this country. He does

0:32:540:32:58

not read out the Afghan nationals or Iraqis, of whom there are

0:32:580:33:03

frankly more. Equally we need to bear those in mind. Any Parliament

0:33:030:33:07

needs to think seriously because it commits its troops to military

0:33:070:33:12

action. Has it been worth it? Have they died in vain? I hope not. We

0:33:120:33:17

are told by our military advisers that the surge has been successful,

0:33:170:33:22

that the transfer of power has now, is now taking place, seriously to

0:33:220:33:27

the Afghan forces T conditions are right to do so. John Redwood is

0:33:270:33:30

right. We went there and we don't know whether it is right until we

0:33:300:33:34

have left the country. The Government has said we want all

0:33:350:33:40

combat troops out by 2015, at the latest. I share the view of many,

0:33:400:33:44

saying the sooner we can leave and have the conditions right for the

0:33:440:33:48

Afghans to run their own country, the better. The man in the second

0:33:480:33:55

row from the back there? Fern said about talking to these people. I

0:33:550:33:59

believe the Afghan Government and American Government are starting

0:33:590:34:03

talks with the Taliban. As they are sending in suicide bombers are they

0:34:030:34:07

the sort of people who can sit around a table and talk about

0:34:070:34:10

ending it peacefully. And the British Government is talking to

0:34:100:34:15

them as well. Rachel Reeves? those 374 lives aren't going to

0:34:150:34:19

have been given in vain, then we need to negotiate a solution with

0:34:190:34:23

people in Afghanistan. That means that the Government in Afghanistan,

0:34:230:34:27

as John said training the police and army, but it means talking with

0:34:270:34:31

those people who we might not share their values. We might not agree

0:34:310:34:35

with everything they do, but if we want to make sure there is a stable

0:34:350:34:39

future in Afghanistan, we ned to be talking to people who use -- need

0:34:390:34:44

to be talking to people who used to be our enemy. You don't make peace

0:34:440:34:49

with your friends. You make peace by talking to those people you

0:34:490:34:59

disagree with. APPLAUSE Second row from the back? It seems as though

0:34:590:35:03

we are putting a price on people's lives. When we went into war, we

0:35:030:35:07

knew it would cost us a lot of money. Now it has gone on longer

0:35:070:35:12

than what we anticipated. We are pulling out because, as Fern said,

0:35:120:35:18

you know, the money, the money implication. How can we justifyably

0:35:180:35:24

put our money on a person's live, by withdrawing? Do you mean we

0:35:240:35:29

should find the money to stay there until the job is done in the sense

0:35:290:35:35

that the military want to see the job done? I think so, yes. You do?

0:35:350:35:39

I realise that people are losing their lives. There'll always be a

0:35:390:35:45

first and always be a last. It's the ones inbetween and you know,

0:35:450:35:49

their lives are very, very crucial at the time when they lost them,

0:35:490:35:56

unfortunately. If we pull out now, all that is lost.

0:35:560:36:00

Weapons of mass destruction - at the end of it, you found out he

0:36:000:36:05

doesn't have any weapons of mass destruction. You walk into

0:36:050:36:09

Afghanistan. Start killing them. You say you should negotiate. You

0:36:090:36:13

should negotiate in the first place before going into Afghanistan and

0:36:130:36:18

killing so many people. APPLAUSE The man in the black jacket.

0:36:180:36:26

what point will we sit down and negotiate with Al-Qaeda?... Given

0:36:260:36:33

the basis we negotiate with our enemies - it's a rude, ludicrous

0:36:330:36:37

situation. We ended up negotiating the IRA in Northern Ireland. They

0:36:370:36:41

had a clear political objective. Obviously their methods were

0:36:410:36:45

completely unacceptable. They had a clear objective, therefore there

0:36:450:36:51

was a national policy to negotiate with. Al-Qaeda - they seem to want

0:36:510:36:55

to simply behave in a way that blows themselves up, blow other

0:36:550:37:00

people up. Their objective seems to be the destruction of western

0:37:000:37:04

civilisation. It cannot be negotiated in the same way. There

0:37:040:37:08

is a difference between Taliban and Al-Qaeda. He said Al-Qaeda.

0:37:080:37:13

other gentleman next to you was talking about Taliban. There is a

0:37:130:37:17

vast and long spectrum of Taliban members, Al-Qaeda members and some

0:37:170:37:21

of them are probably the majority are reasonable enough to sit and

0:37:210:37:26

talk with, I am hoping. The woman there in green? I was thinking,

0:37:260:37:30

what about the other people who are not part of the Taliban? Are we

0:37:300:37:33

just abandoning them? There are an awful lot of people who don't agree

0:37:330:37:40

with the Taliban and they want us to stay. Are we just walking out on

0:37:400:37:44

them? We have to remember our aim is to leave Afghanistan as a more

0:37:440:37:48

stable country which can govern itself, which can sort out all its

0:37:480:37:52

disagreements by word and arguments rather than by bombs and bullets.

0:37:520:37:56

It is a difficult task. I don't see how you can do it until you talk to

0:37:560:38:00

all the groups. You will not like some of them. They will be hostile

0:38:000:38:03

to others. They will not have an established civil society until

0:38:040:38:08

they can deal with those things by argument rather than bombs.

0:38:080:38:12

last point from the man there? country has an amazing army. Isn't

0:38:120:38:17

it time the Government realise we cannot just solve the problems and

0:38:170:38:27
0:38:270:38:27

invade these countries. The cost implications, for example. Let's go

0:38:270:38:31

on. Is David Cameron a saviour by suggesting the U-turn is a strength

0:38:310:38:39

of strength? APPLAUSE

0:38:390:38:42

David Cameron, in his press conference at Downing Street said,

0:38:420:38:48

in reference to the dropping of the proposal to give 50% remission of

0:38:480:38:53

sentence if you pleaded guilty, he said that a U-turn would be a sign

0:38:530:38:58

of strength. John Redwood, do you see it as a sign of strength?

0:38:580:39:05

good U-turn is a sign of strength. One U-turn.... Deserves another.

0:39:050:39:09

You turn if you want to.... If you have too many of them then your

0:39:100:39:14

critics will be hostile and say, why don't you make up your mind in

0:39:140:39:20

a sensible way. They've had NHS reforms, the forests, milk, books,

0:39:200:39:27

cutting down on two deliveries to one of waste. Too many. I would

0:39:270:39:31

suggest they have a period without U-turns. I think it would be much

0:39:310:39:36

welcome. I think the latest one on sentencing, which is presented as a

0:39:360:39:40

U-turn - a little unfair - they consulted on an idea. Practically

0:39:400:39:43

everybody, including the judges, and a lot of Conservative

0:39:430:39:48

backbenchers told them it was not a wise idea, so they went back to

0:39:480:39:51

what they inherited. The Justice Secretary was famously clear in

0:39:520:39:55

that interview when he talked about rape and serious rape. He said, in

0:39:550:40:03

a case where a judge thinks it's right and where the charged man has

0:40:030:40:06

shown contrition, isn't making things worse, he can get a half off.

0:40:060:40:11

He was committed to that policy, so it is a U-turn. It was presented

0:40:110:40:15

later as discussion. Actually Ken Clarke wanted it. I think Ken

0:40:150:40:18

Clarke is trying to do some brave and good things. The idea of trying

0:40:180:40:23

to get drugs out of prison is superb. It is amazing how many

0:40:230:40:29

drugs there are in prisons. 70% of all offenders use drugs before they

0:40:290:40:34

go into prison. It would be great if he can do that. He is spending

0:40:340:40:38

time thinking about decent programmes so they can work and get

0:40:380:40:43

the habit of work in prison. They might not commit offences again.

0:40:430:40:46

Our prisons are not working properly. There are too many people

0:40:460:40:51

in them. Too many of them go back in. There'll be more in them now as

0:40:510:40:55

a result of the Government's refusal to give the 50% cut.

0:40:550:41:03

aim of the policy.... The aim is to stabilise the population. There are

0:41:030:41:07

things going on, one area that lots would agree is to get the

0:41:070:41:11

foreigners out of prison. Why when we could send them home and say we

0:41:110:41:15

don't want them back. There's something interesting you have just

0:41:150:41:19

said is that the Government consulted, people said it was a bad

0:41:190:41:24

idea. If the Government didn't consult and did a U-turn that would

0:41:240:41:28

be different. It's two different sides. Can the Government consult

0:41:280:41:33

people or can't they? It depends how you consult, does it. Norman

0:41:330:41:37

Baker? Have you done U-turns? Transport Minister, I'm always

0:41:370:41:44

doing usm turns. I know that U- turns can be a sensible manoeuvre.

0:41:440:41:49

Illegal? Only if you have a no U- turn sign up. The reality is that

0:41:490:41:53

we've had Governments, often we elected minority of the vote,

0:41:530:41:57

ramming through policies, which the majority of the people don't like,

0:41:570:42:02

then telling the people they there is no alternative, we must carry on,

0:42:020:42:06

you must bring this policy through. Then you end up with a disaster,

0:42:060:42:11

three or four years down the track, like the poll tax which you have to

0:42:110:42:15

change. It is better. Of course it is better get the policy right in

0:42:150:42:18

the first place, so there's no need for a U-turn. If you get the policy

0:42:180:42:23

in a way that needs to be changed, it is better to do so, having

0:42:230:42:27

listened to people, having consulted. Having been open as a

0:42:270:42:31

Government, as this Government is, as a coalition Government, as a

0:42:310:42:38

matter of fact. To admit that and then make changes. It is a sensible

0:42:380:42:43

man who can admit he's wrong, or woman, admit they are wrong and do

0:42:430:42:47

a U-turn. The weakness lies in the fact that the Prime Minister

0:42:470:42:50

allowed this to get through in the first place. Ridiculous!

0:42:500:42:57

APPLAUSE It is logical to make a decision

0:42:570:43:01

after you have consulted with people. Not make a decision and

0:43:010:43:06

then consult and go, oh, I've made a mistake, and then change your

0:43:060:43:16
0:43:160:43:17

Let me just say, is it a sign of strength? Well, what is a sign of

0:43:170:43:22

strength is to talk to the people who do decisions are going to

0:43:220:43:27

affect, then decide what your policy is going today. On NHS

0:43:270:43:30

reform, on sentencing, on forests, the Government made up its mind, it

0:43:300:43:34

announced the policies. Then when they heard direction of their

0:43:340:43:37

people, they changed their mind. I don't think that is a sign of

0:43:370:43:47
0:43:470:43:55

strength, but I do welcome the David Mitchell? I wouldn't say U-

0:43:550:44:00

turn was a sign of strength, is not necessarily a sign of weakness. In

0:44:000:44:03

all of these cases, the public consultation is quite a blunt

0:44:040:44:08

instrument. It basically means, how loud have the media screamed about

0:44:090:44:14

this? We are eight democracy where the main consultation is supposed

0:44:140:44:17

to be the General Election. After that, people are supposed to govern

0:44:170:44:22

as they see fit, if we don't like it, we throw them out. I don't feel

0:44:220:44:26

that... I'm all right with politicians taking a view and doing

0:44:260:44:31

that. If it's wrong, someone else can put it right. I don't see the

0:44:310:44:34

role of the politician to be just to listen, I want them to have some

0:44:340:44:38

views and some convictions. Some of their views, it might not seem a

0:44:380:44:41

good idea. Maybe they will subsequently be proved right. With

0:44:420:44:48

this section will never find out. They would just go, hang on, the

0:44:480:44:52

papers turned against us, we will U-turn as a sign of strength, and

0:44:520:44:56

we'll never know if it might have been a brilliant idea. You think

0:44:560:44:59

the U-turn was from listening to what the press said, rather than

0:44:590:45:03

the public as a whole? Obviously some of the public agreed with what

0:45:030:45:08

the press said. But what is the system, how do they know? Do you

0:45:080:45:17

put your head outside of Parliament and listen for cheering or going?

0:45:170:45:20

It's almost a danger issue of democracy, that you elected

0:45:200:45:22

government for five years, except what they do without complaint and

0:45:220:45:26

then elected new one. I think a proper democracy is one where

0:45:260:45:29

people have a chance to input and contribute during a parliament so

0:45:290:45:33

that we hear those voices. If the Government is going off-track, they

0:45:330:45:42

can say so loudly and clearly and reverse the judgment. And do that

0:45:420:45:52
0:45:520:45:55

on everything? Have you listened on tuition fees, as Liberal Democrats?

0:45:550:45:59

Let me say this, my party got our manifesto wrong on tuition fees.

0:45:590:46:05

Let me say that bluntly now. No, we did. Actually, we did listen, the

0:46:050:46:08

policy on tuition fees at the end is much better than it was at the

0:46:080:46:13

beginning. Which isn't to say it is perfect. The NHS, coming back to

0:46:130:46:19

that, the question is, do you want the NHS to have the U-turn that it

0:46:190:46:22

had, which now has a much better policy, having listened to the

0:46:220:46:27

public, the doctors, the medical profession? Or would you have had a

0:46:270:46:30

his ploughing on ahead, listening to nobody and saying, well, we are

0:46:300:46:33

the Government but we are not going to listen to anyone? He tried to

0:46:330:46:37

listen to people when they have legitimate complaints and just

0:46:370:46:42

policy. There have been too many baulks already commits coming

0:46:420:46:45

across as weak leadership. While Margaret Thatcher got the poll tax

0:46:450:46:49

wrong, she got a lot of things right. She came across as a strong

0:46:490:46:54

leader, whether you agree with her or not. That has divided the

0:46:540:47:01

audience! The woman in pink? seems clear to me at times that the

0:47:010:47:06

liberal... De MPs, they are enjoying the fact that they are now

0:47:060:47:16
0:47:160:47:16

in power and forgetting what their Our U-turns symptomatic of a

0:47:160:47:19

coalition government, as opposed to a government with a strong mandate

0:47:190:47:24

that can push through its own policies? Norman Baker? On that

0:47:240:47:28

last point, pushing through policies when you why elected on a

0:47:280:47:37

minority of a vote is not necessarily very democratic.

0:47:370:47:39

Sometimes the majority of parliament, in their heart of

0:47:390:47:44

hearts, the majority of the public disagree with what is being done.

0:47:440:47:47

In the coalition government, nobody wins, we didn't win the election,

0:47:470:47:52

the Conservatives didn't, so we have to compromise. 65% of our

0:47:520:47:55

manifesto is being delivered, that is what we were able to negotiate

0:47:550:47:59

when we went to the Conservatives after the election. The woman on

0:47:590:48:06

the left? One or two baulks suggests a government that listens.

0:48:060:48:10

Any more than that suggests that the ministers that put them forward

0:48:100:48:12

don't know what they are about. That's quite worrying with a

0:48:120:48:15

government. I think a lot of the people making the policies don't

0:48:150:48:18

know what they're talking about, otherwise they would not have so

0:48:190:48:25

many U-turns. The man in the brown jacket? There may be a case for

0:48:250:48:29

occasional U-turns. I think the lady that was not for turning had a

0:48:290:48:33

damaging and detrimental effect on our society, mainly. I agree with

0:48:330:48:36

David Mitchell, it would be refreshing to have a government

0:48:360:48:39

that had the courage of its convictions, that believed in

0:48:390:48:48

something and followed through on that. You, sir? I think that she

0:48:480:48:51

needs to listen to people, he needs to know what people are going

0:48:510:48:55

through. It's not just having a big idea alone. On the U-turn, I think

0:48:550:49:00

there is a right time that the Lib- Dems also have a U-turn as well,

0:49:000:49:04

because it might be good for the country. Have a U-turn, you know.

0:49:040:49:08

Which way do you want them to turn? Have a U-turn and think about

0:49:080:49:11

people. At the moment, they are not representing that, thinking about

0:49:110:49:17

people. Just one point, Norman Baker, there was an interesting

0:49:170:49:21

thing that David Cameron said on Tuesday. There has been all this

0:49:210:49:25

argument about 50% reductions in sentencing if you pleaded guilty.

0:49:250:49:30

He certainly put it forward and said we are consulting. But when

0:49:300:49:34

Tuesday came, the Prime Minister said, I'll quote him, the 50%

0:49:340:49:38

sentence would be too lenient, the wrong message would be sent to the

0:49:380:49:41

criminal and it would erode public confidence in the system. Surely

0:49:410:49:44

that is the kind of thing that should have been thought out before

0:49:440:49:47

the position was ever put to the public for them to give their

0:49:470:49:52

opinion on? It seemed so categoric. He's not saying, having consultants

0:49:520:49:56

-- consulted, we think this, that and the other. He says it is too

0:49:560:49:59

lenient, the wrong message would be sent out. Did he not know that

0:49:590:50:02

before? I don't think he did, otherwise it would not have got us

0:50:020:50:06

are. There was a reason for pursuing the policy, which has been

0:50:060:50:10

long-standing, I think the Labour government introduced it, a

0:50:100:50:13

discount on the tariff for pleading guilty. It was proposed to have an

0:50:130:50:18

extension of that. It became a clear when it was made public that

0:50:180:50:22

the public were concerned about that. John Redwood, would you agree

0:50:230:50:27

with that? Or do you think they slipped up on this one? Clearly,

0:50:270:50:32

they didn't see the significance of this when they launched it. What

0:50:320:50:36

happened was a blanket discount for all kinds of crimes and sentences

0:50:360:50:39

was offered. Naturally, their critics picked out the most

0:50:400:50:43

difficult ones, where none of us agreed with it, and they

0:50:430:50:49

immediately saw the point and said, well, we won't do it banned. -- do

0:50:490:50:55

it then. A last question from Katie Frank? Why should circuses still

0:50:550:51:01

subject animals to such abuse? There is a context for this, an MP

0:51:010:51:07

today, a Tory MP, Mark Pritchard, moved, to his surprise, I think,

0:51:070:51:11

his motion was accepted, that there should be a ban on wild animals

0:51:110:51:17

performing in English circuses. Rachel Reeves? I think that, in the

0:51:170:51:21

end, the right decision was reached today in Parliament. Wild animals,

0:51:210:51:26

as Katie mentioned, will not be able to perform in circuses because

0:51:260:51:29

of the bill that was passed today in Parliament. I think that is

0:51:290:51:32

excellent news. There was a consultation started by the last

0:51:320:51:36

Labour government. 10,000 people responded, 94% thought it was wrong

0:51:360:51:44

to have wild animals in circuses. With a Conservative MP, Liberal

0:51:440:51:47

Democrat, and a Labour MP, they took a bill to the house of Commons.

0:51:470:51:50

At the last minute, the Government decided to accept that, not to vote

0:51:510:51:56

it down. I think that's good news. I think it is wrong, frankly, for

0:51:560:52:01

elephants, lions, tigers, to perform for our enjoyment. I don't

0:52:010:52:05

think many people do get enjoyment out of it. But I think it's

0:52:050:52:08

barbaric, in a civilised society, to treat animals like that. I think

0:52:080:52:15

the right decision was made. completely agree. It is upsetting

0:52:150:52:19

when wild animals, some of which are endangered, are made to do

0:52:190:52:25

things which are not natural to them. You know, I don't know...

0:52:250:52:29

Personally, I find dressage a bit weird as well. Do we want to

0:52:290:52:33

explain that for the benefit of viewers? It is an Olympic sport

0:52:330:52:37

which involves horses doing things which I consider to be very

0:52:370:52:41

unnatural. That probably sounds worse than it is now. I'm sure it

0:52:410:52:47

is absolutely... For The Record, I'm sure it's fine and the horses

0:52:470:52:51

are the Bennett. Today, they look confused. John Redwood, what do you

0:52:510:52:56

make of what the backbencher said? Were you in the house? Did you hear

0:52:560:53:01

what he said? I heard what he said, but I was coming to Question Time.

0:53:010:53:05

He said he had been threatened by Number Ten and told yesterday that

0:53:050:53:08

the Prime Minister would look upon it dimly if he went ahead with the

0:53:080:53:11

debate. He said, I may just be a little council house lad from a

0:53:110:53:15

poor background, but that background gives me backbone. I was

0:53:150:53:19

offered incentive and reward and then it was ratcheted until last

0:53:190:53:24

night I was threatened. What is that about? Is he telling the

0:53:240:53:28

truth? This is an insider whip story. Who knows what would say

0:53:290:53:32

when they are trying to persuade somebody to do something they don't

0:53:320:53:38

want to do? Why were they so fussed about it? I don't know, I think the

0:53:380:53:42

right answer has been reached. I have always hated animal cruelty. I

0:53:420:53:46

think it is wrong to take big cats and try and tame them in cages. It

0:53:460:53:50

is not a bill, it is a motion that has been passed, an instruction to

0:53:500:53:54

the Government to come forward with legislation. I hope they do so. I

0:53:540:53:58

hope that, perhaps by voluntary subscription, we can raise some

0:53:580:54:02

money so that the animals can have a decent retirement in a safe

0:54:020:54:08

location. There are not many of them, I'm pleased to say.

0:54:080:54:12

according to the RSPCA. We need to think about compensation and so

0:54:120:54:17

forth. A great end to this tyranny, we need to stop it. You can't talk

0:54:170:54:21

out my question, what on earth is Number Ten doing directly ringing

0:54:210:54:25

up a backbencher and threatening him? He says he was contacted by

0:54:250:54:28

Number Ten. I don't imagine the Prime Minister himself spoke to

0:54:280:54:34

this little backbencher. Let's hope it was a mistake. Why? Why are they

0:54:340:54:39

so keen... After all, they didn't throw out the vote and try to vote

0:54:390:54:45

the motion down. It was at the very last minute! I think there was

0:54:450:54:48

intention originally to vote it down. I think it wise not to want

0:54:480:54:51

Parliament has had a great day. Surely, they must have been

0:54:510:54:55

something behind it? There was another agenda, why on earth would

0:54:550:55:00

they be strong-armed? It's the performing elephants will be again.

0:55:000:55:05

There was one news channel, I will not mention which, the one that you

0:55:050:55:10

sometimes workforce... Channel 4, that is it. I had forgotten. There

0:55:100:55:20
0:55:200:55:21

There was something about someone in Witney, who had an interest in

0:55:210:55:25

animals in circuses or something. They denied it. I don't think it

0:55:250:55:35
0:55:350:55:36

could possibly be that. Nearly has I'm delighted by today's decision.

0:55:360:55:39

I spent many years in opposition tried to get a ban on wild animals

0:55:390:55:43

in circuses. It's not just the performing and humiliation, it's

0:55:430:55:48

also the fact that you cannot keep animals sensibly of that nature in

0:55:490:55:51

conditions were you are in a travelling circus. You can't give

0:55:510:55:54

them the space to exercise and perform in a natural way. I think

0:55:540:55:58

it is a really good move and I'm delighted it has all-party support.

0:55:580:56:01

I hope it can go forward as soon as possible that legislation.

0:56:020:56:05

woman up there, then I'll come to you. While I think it's a nice

0:56:050:56:10

thing that they have voted against animals being in circuses, why are

0:56:100:56:13

we wasting so much time and money on discussing things like this when

0:56:130:56:16

there are so many bigger issues, like the stuff we have talked about

0:56:160:56:22

tonight, that is supposed to be voted in Parliament? We voted them

0:56:220:56:28

in, not animals. Just to be clear, the motion this afternoon was

0:56:280:56:32

raised by a backbench committee. We allow time in the House of Commons

0:56:320:56:35

to allow backbenchers to decide what to debate, it is their choice.

0:56:350:56:41

It did follow a big debate on hospitals of great interest to us.

0:56:410:56:48

You, sir? Did the same wing threatened David Cameron on the 50%

0:56:480:56:51

U-turn on prison sentences? I don't think he would have done. I think

0:56:510:56:55

it's very important to the animals concerned, I think they would think

0:56:550:56:58

it is important. If we think that animals should not be caged for

0:56:580:57:02

people's enjoyment, why should we not go one further and talk about

0:57:020:57:07

zoos as well? A brief point for new question are can I just agree with

0:57:070:57:11

Mr Redwood? I think it's been a fantastic day in Parliament. The

0:57:110:57:16

Bill before was about children, children's heart surgery. The

0:57:160:57:19

stopping and thinking a little bit more about that consultation

0:57:190:57:24

process. But children and animals all in one day, today was a great

0:57:240:57:34
0:57:340:57:36

day in Parliament. Democracy at its Well, we have to free these caged

0:57:360:57:40

animals on the panel now. Question Time is going to be in Birmingham

0:57:400:57:50
0:57:500:57:57

next week. The week after that we My thanks to all of our panellists

0:57:570:58:01

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