David Dimbleby chairs Question Time from the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, with a panel including Tim Farron, Caroline Flint and Janet Street-Porter.
Browse content similar to 29/09/2011. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
After one of the hottest autumn days since the 1890s,
no respite for our panel in this hot studio in Liverpool.
Welcome to Question Time.
On the panel, housing minister, Grant Shapps,
shadow communities secretary, Caroline Flint,
president of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron,
tipped as a possible future leader of the party.
Broadcaster and author, Janet Street-Porter,
and the Daily Telegraph's chief political commentator, Peter Oborne.
Thank you very much. The first question is from Brian Berry.
Should the speed limit on our motorways be increased to 80mph,
or scrapped altogether?
This government is putting this forward for consultation,
and it's clear the government intends to go ahead.
Caroline Flint, do you approve, 80mph?
Erm, I think if there's evidence that suggests it wouldn't do harm
and it can be enforced, then I think it's worth having a look at.
The only thing I would say, David,
is you have to take into account, if you go up from 70mph up to 80mph,
that's 20% more fuel that will be used.
So there's issues about the cost for the person driving the car.
But everybody would get to work sooner,
because you go faster and get there quicker.
But I'm talking about how much fuel you use.
What worries me about this,
and I'm not saying it shouldn't happen,
but we've seen decisions made, for example,
not fund speed cameras, reducing safety grants available,
cut down on police, which will mean motorway police.
These are important factors about how we manage our roads.
Who's to say that if it's 80, people don't go up to 90?
Well, they go 80 when it's 70.
The point is that as soon as you push it up,
-it might go up another level.
-Are you for or against?
I would like to see the evidence from the government.
I think there are some issues.
the targets to try to reduce deaths by car accident have been scrapped,
and with that some of the safety grants on road safety,
and potential cuts in motorway police to manage the roads.
That should worry us
if we're going to start raising the speed on motorways.
OK. Grant Shapps.
There is an argument for having another look at this.
I am less sceptical about consultations
since I've been in government and seen that evidence does come in
and it's usually very carefully looked at.
As a minister, I take great care to study
what people come back with in consultations.
I think it is a genuine question. I think there are benefits.
One thing which has happened, if you think back to the '60s and '70s,
the cars that were being driven around at the time,
they wouldn't have had the brake systems that exist now,
so I think there is a very good argument
that actually better technology allows a slightly faster speed.
For people who've driven on the Continent,
and I don't just mean the autobahn in Germany,
but almost anywhere on the Continent,
it will tend to be I think 140kph, about 80mph.
It seems to be the new standard, so I think it's worth looking at.
Janet Street-Porter, you ride a bicycle, or on your feet, if you can.
I like walking and I think
there's too much aggressive driving on motorways as it is.
I'm not very happy about this.
Most people on motorways, as you said earlier, with a 70mph limit,
do 80, and if it's 80mph, they'll be doing 90.
Driving on a motorway, I find programmes like Top Gear
have made people think the motorway is an official race track.
I think your lot,
coming up with this increasing the motorway speed limit,
it's a crowd-pleasing, cheap thing to do.
You're not doing that well in the opinion polls,
you've clawed back a bit this week, and this is a cheap vote-winner.
Everybody wants to be Jeremy Clarkson!
No, David, men want to be Jeremy Clarkson.
I don't think you'll find one woman in this audience
who wants a backside like that.
Don't be personal, but I don't...
The man there.
Personally for me, I do a lot of motorway driving.
I wouldn't mind it going up to 80, but the problem for me is
future generations, carbon footprint and stuff,
I think it would affect them more.
But to get the carbon footprint right you have to go to 54 mph,
is that right, Tim Farron? You're a liberal!
And we know about these things, yes.
What do you think about the 80mph limit?
It's fine to have a consultation.
As long as it is looked at in every direction.
Points have been raised as to why it's not a good idea,
and I agree with them.
There are three considerations. One, the impact on the environment.
The faster you go, the worse for the environment.
Second, the faster you go the more likely people are to have accidents,
irrespective of the fact that cars are safer these days.
There are more of them, too. And the third thing is the economy,
will people getting to destinations quicker be better for the economy?
Maybe. But anybody who travels on the M6 can tell you
that if you get up to 40 you're doing well!
Have the consultation, but we should look at the evidence
and decide to stick as we are if that's how it concludes.
The man in the striped shirt.
Equally, the problem is people driving too slowly on motorways,
which is just as dangerous because you get massive congestion.
People drive in the middle lane at 50 and everybody gets irate.
I think that would also help.
You think they should be made to watch Top Gear
and learn how to drive on the motorway?
There should be a minimum speed the police can enforce,
because it is equally as dangerous, I think.
We haven't got any women's hands up. Yes.
The woman at the very back,
and then I'll come to you in the second row from the back.
With regards to the adverts shown on television, where they show that
if you're going 40mph compared to 30, the impact
of a child being dragged so much further down the street,
surely if you're going down the motorway,
someone doesn't have a seatbelt on,
they'll go further through the window
and have far more fatalities.
You would be against the change? Peter Oborne, are you for or against?
I'm very strongly in favour of this change to 80mph.
One of the good things which this government is doing
is getting rid of unnecessary laws and regulations.
And there's a bigger point here as well.
It's very important that laws should be treated with respect
when we have them.
The fact is, none of the people round this panel,
and I suspect very few people in the audience,
actually ever take any notice
when there's a clear run on the motorway of that 70mph limit.
Let's have a limit which people respect,
and let's get rid of more laws which people simply don't observe,
like the ludicrous hunting ban, for instance. Let's get rid of that.
The woman there.
The woman there, yes, you.
Will the government's consultation include measuring how much
extra fuel tax they might rake in from us drivers?
-You think there's a hidden agenda?
The more fuel, the more the government gets.
It's like the more you smoke, and they try to stop you.
That's a new conspiracy theory, like Janet's one
about men all watching Top Gear and wanting to be Jeremy Clarkson,
which I don't and don't, by the way.
How do you know, if you don't watch it?
I don't watch it and I don't want to be him.
You don't know you don't want to be Jeremy Clarkson
-if you don't watch it.
-Might be getting pedantic,
but the point it,
there's probably no-one in this audience at some point
who hasn't been on an open piece of motorway...
No-one's talking about roads where there's a kid walking by,
people should be wearing seatbelts, but no-one can sit here today
and say there's never been an open bit of road
and you've wondered why the speed limit is set at 70,
when there would be no difficulty in driving a bit faster.
I think it's worth looking at,
and if it enables people to get to place a bit faster...
That is a completely spurious argument, about as spurious
as your high-speed rail up the middle of England
vandalising the whole of the centre of the country
to get people to Birmingham 20 minutes faster.
Why is getting anywhere ten minutes faster so desirable?
Of all the personal freedoms you could give me,
giving me the freedom to get somewhere ten minutes faster
going 80mph is ludicrous.
No doubt people will have made these arguments
when instead of horse-drawn carriage,
they decided to build railways in the first place.
I think this is an absolutely Dickensian argument.
Going faster doesn't mean you're more modern.
In future, the people with the most money will be going the slowest.
We'll see over time.
You in the brown pullover.
Peter said that raising the limit to 80
would make people respect the speed limit more.
I'm in favour of the change,
but has he seen any evidence
that people would stick to that speed limit?
What I was saying was,
let's not have a limit which nobody in this country observes.
Let's have a limit which people do observe.
If you have a limit of 80mph which people observed,
there will be respect for the law.
The problem is that we have politicians who invent laws
and create laws which are never meant to be observed.
-Let's have respect for that law.
-But why would they follow it?
What is the evidence that 10mph more will make a difference?
I'm suggesting that when you do have a sensible speed limit,
you do enforce it seriously.
If you raise the speed limit to 80, the question is
looking at the evidence about the impact on safety
and how it will be enforced. I think the point the young man's making
is that people go over 70
and we know that, but they'll probably go within a range of 70-75.
If you start bumping it up,
will people bump up the norm for going over the speed limit?
I'm not advocating going over the speed limit,
but I'm talking about human behaviour.
It's like a Marx Brothers movie.
Make it 80, then 90, then 100.
It's like drinking The minute you tell people "You're only supposed
"to drink 14 or 21 units", ha, ha, ha. How many of us stick to that?
We don't, as a nation, stick to rules, do we?
My postbag is more full of people
concerned about people driving too fast than not driving fast enough.
At the bottom end, people in residential areas, rural Cumbria,
are concerned that the speed limit of 30 should come down to 20.
The police will tell you they don't have the resources to enforce it,
but those limits do enforce themselves.
If it's at 30, people drive at 38.
-If it's 20, they drive at 28.
-That's because of the fining system.
You can use cameras now on average speeds, which you couldn't before.
-You're ending the funding of speed cameras.
-The woman there?
Isn't this just another example of another policy proposal
that is for the business community who want to get their trucks there
20 minutes early,
instead of something that would benefit normal people more,
and it is also a gimmick, a crowd-pleasing gimmick,
as Janet said.
Isn't that just another example of a time-wasting policy?
It's not pleasing you, and it's not pleasing a lot of people here.
Perhaps one of the things to consult about
is whether it's a crowd-pleasing gimmick.
The idea that you should never look at laws
that were put in place in the '60s and '70s is crazy.
Just because it benefits businesses and gets haulage companies
and all of us around faster, the idea that it doesn't
have a knock-on effect on jobs is of course not true as well.
Join in this debate if you want:
We go now to a question from Gwyneth Evans.
Is the eurozone a burning building with no exits?
This is a quote from William Hague, the Foreign Secretary,
who said that's what he thought it was
and that powers should be returned from Europe and the rest of it.
Tim Farron, are you a supporter of the eurozone,
or is it a burning building, as your Foreign Secretary said?
I would say it's a building on fire,
and the number of exits are limited.
The fact that they are in the euro has limited the number of exits.
I think William Hague is saying that, I guess to make the point
that he was right as Tory leader
to say we shouldn't have gone into the euro.
In retrospect, you can't argue with that.
Do you think it was the right decision?
Absolutely. Is the house on fire? Yes. Did the euro set it on fire?
No, it didn't. The fact
that governments have overspent and banks have overlent
is the reason for fire across the world. The US doesn't have the euro.
We don't have the euro,
and we have huge, crippling financial problems that need to be tackled.
We're in north-west England.
We have an affinity with Ireland,
culturally and economically. The talk is of Greece,
but don't forget our friends and cousins over the water here.
We need to protect them, for our economy.
There are thousands of jobs in the north-west
that depend on the eurozone not going down. It's vital.
I so agree that we have to care about our cousins in Ireland.
And the way the Irish will recover is by getting out of the euro.
If Ireland got out of the euro,
their economy would start to recover strongly tomorrow afternoon.
The same applies to Greece.
If they got out of the euro and went back to the drachma,
their economy would start to recover tomorrow afternoon.
I'm not going to let off Tim Farron lightly.
His party pushed for this country to go into the euro.
If we had taken his advice,
we would now be in the same degraded state
as Portugal, as Spain,
as Italy. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury is Danny Alexander,
the economic ignoramus who tried to drive us into the euro.
He headed the campaign for the euro for five full years,
and then at the Lib Dem conference two weeks ago, he had the audacity
to say that us Euro-sceptics were enemies of growth.
If he had had his way, there wouldn't be growth in this country.
This is history, Peter.
-I wanted to remind everybody.
-But we didn't go into the euro.
I know you have it in for those who thought we should,
but they didn't win.
Your lot won the argument.
We have to thank the good sense of the British people, actually,
for not taking us in at the end of the day,
because Tony Blair didn't dare to do it.
But the truth now is
that the solution to this problem for countries like Ireland
and Greece is to get out of the euro as soon as they possibly can.
The woman in the second row?
I think we should cut all ties with the European Union altogether.
It's ruined our economy.
I think that the British people should have the right to vote
whether we want it or not.
Like the Liberal Democrats, they wanted a referendum to see
if they could get in in 2015. You've got no chance.
Where's our vote for the European Union?
Grant Shapps, you should get out altogether?
The Foreign Secretary said you should repatriate powers.
We are an island. we should have the right
whether we want to be in.
Ask the British people that pay into the system.
-Our coalition partners don't believe we should get out.
I heard Tim say it would be wrong for us to put that on the table.
Does that mean you think we should get out?
I think we should have powers repatriated.
I can see that whilst we're in a coalition
during this period of trying to stop our country being in that building
as well, it's important to concentrate on
dealing with our own debt. And we're doing that.
It's one of the reasons we're able
to borrow at historically low levels of interest rates
whilst in many places in Europe, it's become incredibly expensive.
William Hague is right to say that the building is on fire.
I think there is an opportunity that the European leaders have
to douse those flames, but they have to move
very quick. There are 17 countries in the euro
who need to put these plans through. We saw the Germans take that step.
These are just the plans from June or July.
They need to get ahead of the curve.
They're trying to catch up all the time.
They need to be ahead of this.
They need to deal with the debt crisis.
You sound more optimistic than William Hague,
because the interpretation
of a burning building with no exits is disastrous. You don't get out.
That's the result of me reading the rest of his interview.
"I once said it was like a burning building".
"..And I was right". What's different about the interview?
It looks like the doors are blocked, the windows are jammed
and it's difficult to get out. We don't have to end up
in that situation. If the European economy is in the euro,
it's their responsibility to resolve, get together,
and have the political leadership and will to sort it out.
Then it can be done. The trouble is,
they're behind the curve at every stage at the moment.
They've got a window of opportunity until the Cannes summit
to get this sorted out.
-The man in the black and white shirt?
-I'm listening to the panel,
and I'm perplexed because everyone's on about the euro.
At the end of the day,
the people sat in this room will be bailing this country out.
If Greece defaults on its loan,
you are going to come to this country and say
"We need money because we're skint", in a nutshell.
If Ireland defaults on its loan,
how is Mr Osborne going to get his seven billion euro loan
back from Ireland?
I think it's a valid point and it worries a lot of people.
-We're not part of the European Stability Fund.
-We pay into it.
-No, we pay into the IMF fund.
-But it's going to cost us something?
Of course it will. If those economies go to the wall,
if there are problems in Europe,
one of our biggest markets, of course that's a problem for us.
You mention the Ireland money, the seven billion or so.
I think it hasn't been called on as yet, but Ireland and Britain
have a more interconnected economy
than many others, and certainly than we do with Greece.
-The woman on the right?
-Is it possible to be a Eurosceptic
and pro-Europe by looking at the European Union
as a potential Commonwealth,
more loosely constructed than the European Union,
but as a Commonwealth reflective
of why our own Commonwealth survives and why it's so strong.
Why can't the countries of Europe cooperate, work together,
-but be a more loosely bound Commonwealth?
-I call myself a European pragmatist.
-Would you call yourself that?
That's a new expression.
What I mean by that
is that we have such important trading links with Europe.
It's our biggest market. In terms of where we send our goods and the jobs
it creates, a lot of people in this country depend on the jobs
because of those connections with Europe. Difficult at the moment,
because they're not growing
and therefore, we're not receiving our exports.
I'm a pragmatist because I would agree
that there are a number of occasions over the years
where the European Union
has seemed to overcomplicate and involved in matters
which have caused a lot of scepticism in this country.
But the problem for us is this.
One thing I should say -
I'm pleased that when the decisions were being made
under the Labour government, we did choose not to go into the euro.
That was one of the best decisions we made.
It was Gordon Brown's decision. But where we are now is
a bit like the Ireland situation.
If Ireland goes under and other parts of the European Union go under,
we can't sit as an island outside of that.
What I would say to Grant is, there's a G20 summit in November,
which is the most powerful economies in the world.
It's meant to be happening in France. I do believe,
given that we're not party to some of the decisions in Eurozone countries,
that the Prime Minister should say "Bring that summit forward.
"You've said it's an emergency."
By bringing that summit forward, at least we can get ourselves
and others around the table,
including the French, and have discussions in detail
about how to deal with this very difficult situation.
The woman at the very back there? Two in from the gangway.
Earlier in the week, a market trader appeared on the BBC,
and he predicted that in 12 months' time,
people's savings would start vanishing from their bank accounts.
Does the panel think there is truth in this statement, and if they do,
what can ordinary people do to prepare for this situation?
That is the kind of worry that people have. Janet Street-Porter,
what do you think about the situation we're in?
I'm glad we're not in the eurozone.
I look at the EU, and when people talk about turning it round,
it's not like a burning building, it's like a tanker or something.
It's like the world's most luxurious tanker.
The one thing about Europe is what it's cost us.
Isn't it fascinating that all these MEPs of all political persuasions,
once they go to Brussels and are signed up to massive expenses,
this gorgeous lifestyle in Brussels, on our money...
Suddenly they can see all the justification
for all this legislation that in many,
many ways has had a detrimental effect on Britain.
You go around Europe, and I travel
around Europe a lot, and you see that in other European countries,
how they interpret health and safety and food standards
is completely variable.
It's like a club where everybody has their own set of rules.
So I find it bizarre
that now the eurozone and strong countries like France
and Germany have to bite the bullet and bail out Greece.
I find that incredible as a concept.
Grant Shapps, the point the woman made about savings -
-do you think there is a danger?
-I think the answer is, in this country,
through two measures, the danger is less.
One is that the banks were recapitalised,
a measure which was very expensive. They're paying it back.
They need to pay more back, but it's being done.
Secondly, the country itself is paying down its debts.
Whatever you think about the cuts,
no doubt we'll have arguments about those things, but the truth is
that foreign countries are still prepared to lend to Britain.
Because of that, we're much less likely to have those problems.
That's why we're not like Greece, as yourselves and the Liberal Democrats
tried to make out for all these months.
Sorry, now you're changing your tune.
You claimed it was your government that stopped us going into the euro,
which happened under the Major government.
Secondly, we were in the position of Greece,
in fact with a bigger budget deficit
than Greece, until we started to cut it.
The burning building is not the eurozone, it's Europe.
Burning £40 million a day, £280 million a week.
What we're going through now, that £280 million wouldn't half go well
on saving hospitals, firefighters' jobs
and saving public sector workers. That's what we should be doing.
I was a supporter of Europe, and now Europe has turned
into the most embarrassing boys' club I've ever seen in my life.
Euro MPs, it's like, "Bang, I've won the lottery again."
It is an absolute embarrassment.
Let's get out of it and put the money in saving British jobs!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Tim Farron, the Foreign Secretary
said that powers should be returned to the UK from Europe,
which is presumably what you would like as a start?
What powers would you like to see returned from Europe to us?
The main power that the UK government can exercise over Europe
is to scrutinise those things that come out of the European Union.
If you go around the Continent, most countries devote time
to scrutinising European legislation. We don't.
We have quite a poisonous relationship with the EU.
The clear sense of hostility to Europe is tangible here tonight.
No powers returned in your view?
The point is making a case for Europe.
But William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, I hate to say,
you are in a coalition, I know you don't like
being in coalition with the Tories, you want a divorce
within three years or whatever, maybe you're thinking
of having an affair with Labour, you know,
but you are in the coalition...
That got too complicated. I think I might need an injunction.
You are in a coalition.
Are you saying that the Liberal Democrats are against that?
The point is this, we have the European Union,
which is clearly not popular in this country.
It is a really difficult situation.
People like myself,
those who are pro-Europe and probably the majority around this table
believe we should remain part of the EU,
but we, if we're not careful,
end up apologists for some of the nonsense coming out of Brussels.
You're right to point to the gravy train.
Some of the ludicrous decisions.
It took Europe 18 years to decide how to define chocolate!
That's an easy hit. Even the Commission knows...
The point I'm making is
we need to aim high and make the argument for Europe.
How about this, next week...
..The MPs are who stealing our money!
-The bottom line...
-We don't use it.
How come we've got to... the Euro MPs?
Let me bring in...
I would like to add something to the very eloquent points
being made by the gentleman in the front row.
You agree with him?
I agree with everything he has said, he's brilliant.
Should be an MEP. But I want to add something else.
I want to say something else which is very frightening,
very chilling, is the sheer brutality of the European Union.
What they are doing, in order to keep their euro going,
which Tim Farron here supports so much,
they are driving countries to bankruptcy.
They are driving hundreds of millions of people out of work.
There's 46% youth unemployment in Spain
as a direct result of the euro.
In the '80s, when Margaret Thatcher was doing her monetarism
and wasaccused by the left of being an evil, ugly woman
determined to destroy people...
She was! >
Whatever... Thatcher, I think she was a great woman,
but whatever she was doing...
BOOING FROM THE AUDIENCE
She hated Liverpool. >
Whatever she was doing, it was compassion itself,
She hated Liverpool. >
She hated Liverpool. >
I shouldn't have raised the subject.
-I'll move on, then. I give up on that.
Move on, move on! >
But the point is that the brutality of the European Union,
the readiness of the Brussels bureaucrats to obliterate
not just industries, but entire economies
in the name of the dogma of the euro,
that is something which really should frighten us.
Talking about dogma here, next week,
Jim Paice who is the Agricultural Minister, will go to Brussels
and sit around a table with 26 other agricultural ministers
and argue the toss about sheep tagging.
Six or seven of those guys around the table,
22 years ago had nuclear weapons on their soil pointing at this city.
Next week, they're arguing the toss about sheep tagging.
About sheep tagging. LAUGHTER
Electronic identification for sheep.
Sheep tagging. Thank you.
I think you have made your point.
The point is if all we are doing now with the likes of Hungary
is arguing the toss about how we identify the bovine community,
that is a massive progress from where we were beforehand.
-Thank you, Tim.
Let's go on. APPLAUSE
I appreciate there is a lot of interest in that question.
A lot of hands up.
I think there might well be in the next one as well.
Which is from Christopher Sinnett, please.
Should families in employment be given preferential treatment
on social housing lists over the unemployed?
This was something Ed Miliband in his speech here in Liverpool,
where the Labour party conference has been going on,
said, "Do we treat the person who contributes to their community
"the same as the person who doesn't? My answer is no."
He was arguing for social housing to give priority to people
who are in employment or gave something back to the community.
Janet Street-Porter, what do you think of that proposal?
Seems to be both a Labour and a Tory...
Yes, I noticed today the Tories are claiming that one as well.
I thought Ed Miliband's speech was bizarre,
because he divides the whole of our society into good and bad people.
I was thinking, right,
so we now have these people in council houses,
good people and bad people,
and the bad people are the people on benefits without a job.
And if you want to get social housing, you need to be in work.
That's ludicrous because we've got at the moment,
nearly a million young people out of work,
so they'll never get on a housing list.
Then I thought about it again and I thought,
there is some merit in creating a points system,
a more modern points system, given the pressure on social housing.
I thought maybe if people did more for their community,
after all, if you want your child to go to a certain school,
you go to church, whatever, you move to an area,
you try to build up points to get your kid
into a church school, for example.
I was thinking, there has been a lot of talk from David Cameron
and from Labour about community spirit and the big society, whatever.
I'm thinking, yes, maybe if the people who help run youth clubs,
help in public libraries, now councils are making
all these cuts and libraries have to be run by volunteers,
if they do social work and do stuff in the community,
that should count as points.
What about when they stop it after they've got the house?
I'm not going to be that judgmental, but I think it's a better structure.
I think this idea of being in paid employment
to get a council house is ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous.
Person in the middle, at the back.
If this is put in place, how are we going to make sure that
people who are physically and mentally unable to contribute
to their community aren't forgotten about and victims of the system?
First of all, what we're not saying is
that only those in work can get access to a council home,
or that run by a housing association.
What we're saying is, that within a community, councils should
take into account a number of things,
for example needs, just like you've expressed there.
But also, we want to make sure that there's offer
for those people on low incomes who are in work.
Unfortunately, at present, in terms of allocating social housing,
it's too often that people have to present themselves in quite
a demeaning way, to show that they are so needy,
so needing help that that's the way you get the points.
I think that's pretty demeaning.
But also it's about how we widen the offer to the community.
For example, if there are some families living in a neighbourhood
and parents or grandparents and they're in a social home,
and they're looking to their kids who are in work getting one,
and a housing estate goes up run by a housing association,
and they know their kids will never get a chance to live there,
that creates, I think, tensions and concerns about fairness.
What we are saying is, we need more homes, that's absolutely the case.
But we want to make sure social housing isn't seen
as a second-choice offer, but a positive choice.
To be honest, it used to be
that actually most people who lived in council houses,
you had teachers, you had plumbers, you had all sorts of people.
We still have that to a certain extent today,
but unfortunately the allocation procedure
has meant a lot of those people never get a look in.
You mean it favours people who can present a case for neediness?
The problem is when a council is trying to decide
and create diverse neighbourhoods, we've got to a stage,
partly because not enough supply, where other people on low incomes
in work never get a look-in.
As Janet said, what Manchester council have been looking at
is those people who make a real contribution to their community,
saying, actually, they will be part of helping make the community strong.
It's saying... It's not about just giving to one group,
but it's taking into account to create a healthy, strong
and actually a good working neighbourhood
is good for a community.
But we need the jobs
and we're not getting them under this government.
People who are homeless, living in hostels or whatever,
they find it difficult to find work.
Wouldn't this preferential treatment of those who are employed
condemn people to homelessness and unemployment?
No, no, it wouldn't because it is not about saying either or.
There are still allocations to house people who are homeless,
but actually there's social housing,
but also the private rented sector is also used.
One of the things I said today at conference
is we need to make the private rental sector better.
Those who are unemployed, homeless, living in hostels,
they are effectively condemned to not having housing
because they can't get a job.
But that policy would make it more difficult for someone
to get a job, condemning them to homelessness, condemning them to...
There will be obligations on councils to tackle homelessness and need.
A single parent mother out of work, they will still be counted in.
When you have supply, and we hope to increase supply if re-elected.
We created social homes when we were in, not enough, but we did.
That's something we hope will create a better balance
and a real opportunity for social housing to grow.
It is supposed by... The leader of the council in Liverpool said
he would resign from the Labour Party if this goes through.
You haven't got the party on your side.
I don't think that is the case because I have been out in Liverpool
in the last few days and I see where they're trying
to create diverse neighbourhoods through the schemes
they've operating in Kensington and elsewhere in Liverpool.
My worry is that this is authoritarian and populist
and is about creating a culture of the deserving poor.
It worries me greatly.
APPLAUSE How do you assess people's need?
You have to come up with some system in order to judge people's need
and how high up the list they ought to be.
In my part of the world, we have 3,500 council houses left
in South Lakeland, my district area, a waiting list of 3,500 as well.
-We did have 10,000...
We have 3,500 houses available and 3,500 on a waiting list.
-You haven't got a problem, have you?
They are all occupied and there are an extra 3,500 waiting to get in.
So 7,000 if you like. The bottom line is a lack
of affordable and social housing in this country.
We did have 10 or 12,000 council houses but somebody has sold them off
and not replace them, the most ludicrous decision ever taken,
which hit Liverpool and every other town in this country.
So you were against the right to buy?
I take the view...
Were you against the right to buy?
I am against... I'm in favour of allowing councils to suspend
the right to buy where there is most pressure on their housing stock.
I agree with Caroline. Social housing is not a second best option.
It's a legitimate and honourable option.
We should not demonise people and put them on irregular lists.
The woman on the right.
We are talking about social housing
and how it goes to the most needy in a priority order,
but what about young professionals who cannot access social housing?
We can't rent because the rent is too high,
and we cannot get on the property ladder.
-Are you talking about yourself?
Have you applied for social housing?
There is no use, is there?
I live at home with my parents and our house is not seen as overcrowded
so I wouldn't get a look-in on the social housing list.
I don't know enough about it
to talk with any authority at all, to be honest.
You do not need to talk if you don't have any authority.
I think there's one observation I would like to do, to make.
I thought that Ed Miliband's intervention on this issue
was very interesting.
I think that the idea that people can get something for nothing
To encourage people to go out and work and get off a dependency
culture which can go on sometimes for generations is a bold thing.
I think now that it has been suggested by the Tories,
now being adopted by Labour, that is very good.
I went to university, got educated
and I'm not getting anywhere for it now, you know...
Grant Shapps, pick up the cudgels.
I think for somebody in your position,
we've introduced a scheme called First Buy for first-time buyers.
I've looked into that too. What's the point?
You still have to save a deposit to get that
and you have to pay that back in five years' time.
-To me, that does not make sense.
-How much have you got to save?
You have to save £5,000 and you have to pay that back.
So you still get a deposit for £80,000
and the houses you are looking at for £100,000, are tiny.
I'd sooner live in a council house and buy one of those.
Trying to get your 10% deposit that you need,
it's not realistic on my wages, as well.
This is the point...
No, hold on. He's...
The problem is, the biggest commodity we need to live our lives
is a roof over our head.
I may be the first housing minister to ever say this
but I think it is ridiculous that it takes so much
of people's monthly income to have the most basic
of human requirements, to have a roof over your head.
The only way to fix that is through long-term stability in house prices.
You're right, schemes like First Buy which enable you
to get a smaller 5% or 10% deposit are designed to help.
But your wider point is, why shouldn't someone like you who works
have access to the social housing waiting list?
I'd love to access social housing
and have the housing association looking after you but...
So why not expand the Government's spending on social housing?
First of all, we're in this problem of trying to reduce the deficit.
We are going to get a lot more social houses built
as a result of something called affordable rent.
We are going to build 170,000 affordable homes
which exceeds initial expectation... By 2015, the end of the parliament.
But can I get to the original question as well, which was that...
The priority that's given.
Ed Miliband announced in his speech that he thinks if you work,
you should have some priority.
People misunderstand the way the allocation lists work
but, basically, you get points for various situations.
I absolutely agree
because this is our policy, it's in the Localism Bill,
and the housing tenure changes that I am making.
I look forward to the support from the opposition.
It should be the case that if you are in work, that should,
somewhere along the line, be taken into account and you should get
more points for doing the right thing and you should benefit from that
rather than being part of a society where you get something for nothing.
You also floated that if someone got a pay rise they could
be evicted from their council house. That is not helping.
You can misquote me as much as you like but what I actually said...
What I actually said is if you find yourself some time later
in a completely different position,
people like the MP Frank Dobson, who earns over £100,000,
then that house was built for somebody in need of housing.
The waiting lists doubled under the time you were in Government
and it is about time...
People can pay to stay and then they can pay their rent.
We think it will raise £56 million by asking people
on high incomes to pay.
With that money, we can build more social housing.
Let's get this problem fixed!
No matter what each one of the parties wants, this problem is
going to get so much worse when student fees go up to £9,000.
It's people like me that are going to get slaughtered
when we come out of uni with debt we could pay until we are 53 years old.
A house is just off the agenda, isn't it? What are we going to do?
You sir on the fourth row.
I think you can dance around the houses forever and a day
as to how they are allocated
but the fact is that there are just not enough out there.
Caroline, you are right, there is brilliant stuff going on
in how communities are mixed and how we integrate communities.
Forget that argument.
I would like to pick up Grant and say congratulations,
because for the first time I feel with my own organisation
we have managed to exceed what we thought possible.
Your organisation being?
Chester and District Housing Trust and Cosmopolitan Housing Group.
On the back of Grant's proposal of putting 1,058 homes on the ground
in the next three years,
if there's a second round, we could double that.
There's another part as well, and this is a plea to you, Grant.
You have come up with something fantastic and I congratulate you,
but we need to consider the impact of welfare reform.
If you are on the bottom of the rung, it's a bloody tough time.
It really is. I look at some of the residents and I do not know how
they get from week to week.
So the capping of rents?
If you look at housing benefit if it's paid to residents directly,
and most of them don't want it, that will undermine
what is actually a fantastic scheme you have come up with.
OK. I think we should move on.
Let's stick with politics and go to Simon Nolan, please.
Is Ed Miliband's attack on business practices a clear indication that
the Labour Party is moving further to the left under his leadership?
Is the Labour Party moving further to the left,
and what Ed Miliband said was talk about producers
against predators, saying that when Labour came back to power
they would be taxed differently and he would distinguish
between producers and predators, wealth creators and asset strippers.
Is this a move to the left? Janet Street-Porter.
There was a very interesting article in one of the papers today
by James Dyson, picking up on this.
He pointed out he had to move the manufacturing part
of his business abroad because he couldn't get planning permission
to expand his factory in the UK.
He got roundly attacked for that because obviously lots of jobs
went overseas but his businesses has flourished
and the research and development division
and the part of his engineering which develops new products
has expanded, so lots of jobs have come about in the long-term.
I think that this story is an interesting one.
It shows to be successful in business
you've got to be a combination of both.
Both asset stripper and... Wealth creator and predator...
No, very successful businessmen are not good or bad.
They are complex people who at some time during the building
up of their business have to act in a ruthless way.
Business is not as simplistic as Ed Miliband would have.
I think it's absolutely bonkers.
When I watched his speech, it's like loads of placards. Isn't it?
Then you go beyond the placard, and you think,
"But what does he really mean?"
I think it wasn't a good speech.
It's not so much moving to the left,
it's lunching about looking for the daylight, isn't it?
I don't know what you think about Ed Miliband,
now it's rumoured he's going to drop you from his Shadow Cabinet.
First I've heard of it.
Maybe this is a chance for you to show your loyalty?
What do you think?
I think that what Ed Miliband was drawing attention to
is the way some businesses behave.
Clearly we've seen, in terms of the bankers, some worrying things
about how that sector operated over a number of years,
but he also talked about, for example this week,
the way with the energy producers,
that we have a bad business model there,
whereby actually it's putting up prices for the average consumer.
What he talked about was looking at how you can open up
and have more competition in that area,
in order to make sure consumers are supported.
He's also talking about...
What was his job before becoming the leader
-of the Labour Party opposition?
-He was involved in that, yes.
-Was he Energy Secretary?
And Ed was doing work on looking at the energy markets
before we lost the General Election. That is only fair to point out.
What he's saying too, are there ways in way governments
set certain rules that we can also think about encouraging
and supporting businesses that are doing the right thing?
For example, we have huge numbers of government contracts
at national level. There are contracts at a local council level.
Why not say to businesses, "If you win a contract,
"how many apprentices are you taking on?"
Is that a way of encouraging a skill base and opportunity for people?
That isn't what he said. He said they had to be taxed differently.
He was going to distinguish between different types of businesses.
And by tax, what he was talking about is if there are companies
investing in research and design and development,
they could get tax credits to support that activity.
That's about encouraging innovation and jobs.
So there are things about some practises that it's only fair
the government sets rules on, but it's not about being punitive.
It is about rewarding and encouraging good business practice and behaviour.
Then why didn't Labour ever insist that all these companies
had 50% women on the board? You had ten years to do that.
If you talk about good and bad businesses,
women have been ignored by the Labour Party.
But, Janet... APPLAUSE
OK, the man over there, you sir.
Caroline, talking about government contracts,
would you regard good business from the Government being things
like the NHS failed computer system and the nine fire emergency centres
that are costing an arm and a leg and aren't being used.
I would accept that those schemes failed and
we have to look at those and take responsibility.
It is a good point about government procurement and how it works.
Don't be hypocritical.
Jim Murphy has said the same about issues in the Ministry of Defence.
In answer to Janet's point, this is about Ed setting out where he thinks
the Labour Party should go in the future.
You dropped Harriet Harman's proposal to force companies
to have a mandatory number of women on the board. That was shocking.
-Ed wasn't the leader, I don't think.
-You sir, in the fourth row.
This speech did not represent a lurch to the left,
but it challenged some orthodoxies, that have been around for the last 30 years.
We have companies taking advantage of Britain's competitiveness,
tax evading, asset-stripping and moving things offshore.
They are taking advantage, but giving nothing back.
Currently, we reward that, like everybody else,
we shouldn't do, we should treat them differently.
Tim Farron, did you agree with what Ed Miliband said?
Were you sympathetic to what he was saying?
If I understood it, that would be a start.
-If you understood what he said?
-"Good and bad businesses."
I spent last night in Kendal talking to small businesses that
employ no more than a dozen people,
they are, by and large, paying themselves less than the minimum wage
and keeping these folks in work and working their socks off.
They are good businesses, they are in an awful position
because of bad government decisions in the late 1990s to
deregulate the banks and leave us in the mess we are in now.
Is Miliband taking them to the left?
Well, they spent 13 years in power behaving like Tories,
and now 16 months in opposition behaving like Trots.
That is ridiculous.
I am on the right, the Daily Telegraph.
I thought Ed Miliband's speech was one of the most impressive speeches
of a political leader at a party conference for a very long time.
The reason was he was challenging orthodoxy.
We are living in a troubling period.
When all of the beliefs we were brought up to believe
about how society and economy work are being broken.
I think that Ed Miliband is rising to that occasion.
I think that is a very interesting thing.
I would have gone stronger than he did about some aspects of
modern capitalism as it emerged first under Thatcher and then under Blair.
It was encouraged by Blair as much as Thatcher - the feral rich.
There was a reference earlier on to that trader,
that disgusting trader interviewed on BBC, who said he laid awake at
night waiting for the recession and that Goldman Sachs ruled the world.
That is revolting.
That is a disgusting human being.
Something has gone wrong with society.
I think that one of the things that Ed Miliband was doing,
and it is a huge challenge to George Osborne and David Cameron next week,
is that he was trying to bring back morality into the way that this country works.
Is that how you read it?
I thought it was bizarre, this idea of good versus bad companies.
I set up a small company, a printing company 20 years ago,
I'm not sure if I were good or bad.
What about if I were a builder and I invested in the town centre in my constituency,
would I be a good builder as I'm building a town centre that needed regeneration?
Or a bad builder because I was investing and taking a gamble?
Would I be good or bad?
That is Alistair Darling's example after hearing that speech.
I have a question for the audience - would Weetabix be good or bad?
The AA? The RAC? McVities?
These are all companies in the bad books of Ed Miliband.
Why is Weetabix the bad company?
He didn't mention it in his speech.
No, but they are all invested in by private equity firms
-so in his view, they are the bad guys.
-Hang on a second.
At the very back there.
I definitely think that Ed Miliband wouldn't have said
those things one year to an election.
I would like to reiterate that it is very welcoming having moral issues
come back into economic ideas and to the Conservative minister there,
those questions are the right things to say to iron out
those ambivalences that exist and are troubling our society at the minute.
You are not concerned the practicalities weren't spelt out?
You say it's too soon for that?
I think in airing those issues we are having the discussions
and ironing out those things that we need to do.
Man in the second row in the checked shirt.
Peter touched on the issue, the real issue is greed from
the multinational companies who are tax evading.
They are not paying their dues.
We should say they need a measure of corporate responsibility,
to do business in this country
and by extension the European Union, then you have to pay your dues.
I'd be interested to see how Labour can, with authority, judge
what is a good and a bad business, considering John Denham's
admission, that not a single member of the Cabinet had run a business?
What Ed Miliband was talking about was not picking
on one sector or another, but talking about bad behaviour.
Just to answer Grant, he's not having an onslaught against every private equity firm,
but let's be honest about this,
it was a private equity funding firm that put Southern Cross on
an unsustainable footing and tried to sell it for a fast buck
leaving old people not knowing where they would live.
Why do you use this example?
I am using the example that within different sectors, that there
is bad behaviour that needs to be at least acknowledged...
What about the person brought in to sort out Northern Rock
was employed by the Government and allowed to have their tax arrangements paid overseas.
So Government colludes with it.
I think most people know and are concerned
when they hear of certain companies
and in certain sectors behaving in a way,
whether it is not enforcing the national minimum wage
or whether it is issues around safety of their staff
or when there are actions that don't help the business,
help the employees, what he is talking about is let's have a debate.
We have talked about the bankers on many, many occasions.
Everyone said there is something wrong with the bonus culture in banking,
and the way it created a situation where people were taking risks.
That is an example where we have all had a debate in recent times.
Labour has learned from that, we have all learnt from that,
that banking and regulation must be put on another footing.
That is what Ed Miliband is talking about.
This from the leader, Ed Miliband,
who was the special advisor to Gordon Brown, when they allowed Fred the shred,
who they gave a knighthood to and then gave him £17 million
as a pay off, extraordinary!
I think that the Conservatives
wanted to get rid of most of the banking regulations.
So I accept that we made bad mistakes in a number of areas,
but you cannot sit there and say you are totally clean.
The job of the government in this area is to support businesses
and allow people to make a living and create jobs for other people,
but the last Labour government entered power in 1997 and committed the appalling sin
of "out-Thatchering" Mrs Thatcher, deregulating the banks...
Rubbish! We brought in the national minimum wage.
This whole line of appalling collapses,
this is why we are in the mess now it is not because they overspent,
but because they did something even Margaret Thatcher wouldn't do in '97.
Just before we finish the programme,
you said you wanted a divorce from the Tories in three or four years,
the three years is well before an election,
is that what you want to do?
Thank you for allowing me to clarify.
You have to be brief.
Three years and eight months, the coalition needs to last till 2015.
The bottom line is Britain needs stable government.
-How is the marriage going?
-It's going all right.
-Why get divorced then?
-It would be a perfectly amicable divorce.
The point is it is a temporary arrangement.
Yeah, but you are enjoying the power.
It is not a marriage, it's a temporary arrangement?
It is a business arrangement.
We'd better end there because our time is up.
We are in Salford next week.
Manchester is hosting the Tory Party conference.
The panel next week on Question Time,
the musician Billy Bragg, Jane Moore from The Sun,
Sayeeda Warsi for the Government, Andy Burnham for Labour
and Charles Kennedy for the Liberal Democrats.
The week after that we are in London.
If you want to join the audience for either,
that is Salford next week or London the week after,
our number is on the screen there, the website as well.
Thanks to you on the panel in this very steaming hot Liverpool studio
and to all of you who put up with them.
It was very nice having you here.
Until next Thursday when we are going to be in Salford, good night.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
David Dimbleby chairs Question Time from the Labour Party conference in Liverpool. On the panel are Grant Shapps, housing minister; Tim Farron, president of the Liberal Democrats; Caroline Flint, shadow communities and local government secretary; journalist and broadcaster Janet Street-Porter; and columnist and commentator Peter Oborne.