01/12/2011 Question Time


David Dimbleby chairs Question Time from Dagenham. The panellists are Ken Clarke, Chuka Umunna, Mary Bousted, David Frum and Deborah Meaden.

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By strikes, economic gloom, germy Clarkson's jokes. Plenty to debate


here in Dagenham, and welcome to Question Time. -- Jeremy Clarkson's


jokes. With me, just a secretary Ken Clarke, should have Business


Secretary, Chuka Umunna, leader of the teachers' union the ATL, Mary


Bousted, American political commentator David from, a


speechwriter for George W Bush, and businesswoman, star of Dragon's Den,


We have a lot of serious things to talk about, but let's start with


something not so serious. Do the panel feel Jeremy Clarkson should


be prosecuted for his comments about strikers, and if found guilty,


should he be taken outside and shot?


Maybe skip the prosecution and just take him out and shoot him.


Obviously, we have all been discussing this today and I think


the truth of the matter is, I did not like what he said but I would


hate to live in a society where somebody could not make that


comment. All of us can say it was an awful thing to say. I do not


think it was funny. Maybe some people did think it was funny. But


he has apologised and that says it all to me. At the end of the day,


he did not think it was the right thing either. He did not actually


quite apologise, did he? He said, if it upsets people, he was sorry.


If I caused any offence, I am happy to apologise. It is the kind of


apology Ken Clarke made when he was attacked for what he said about


rape. He said, obviously upset a lot of people by what I said, and


I'm sorry if I did by the way I put it. That is about right, isn't it?


We will come to you. I actually have been to a country where people


are shot for being trade unionists, Colombia. It is most dangerous


place in the world to be a trade unionist. Scores of trades


unionists are killed, disappeared, tortured, murdered because they are


trade unionists. I would simply say that Jeremy Clarkson, just


translate strikers, public sector workers for another group in


society who should be taken out and shot, and then see if it is funny.


Did you see it? I have seen the replay. Did you see what he said


first, because he says it has to be taken in context. First he said the


strikes were wonderful. Then he said, this is the BBC and we have


to be balanced. And you know where his real sympathies lie. It was


unacceptable. If you say it about any other group in society, he


would not be saying, I am sorry if I offended somebody. You could


quite easily tell he was just taking the mickey. We do not live


in Colombia. We live in England where you can get away with saying


this sort of thing. There has been a big sense of humour failure on


the part of the Labour Party and the unions.


It was a bad taste joke. The questioner was successful in making


a joke of it, and it was pretty silly. I think the indignation is


mock. People are being po-faced, saying this is quite appalling. We


ought to have a slightly better sense of humour. Jeremy Clarkson


does say, he makes a speciality of bad taste and outrageous remarks.


This takes the biscuit. But all of this po-faced business going on


about it is trying to wrap it up a bit, really. I agree. My sister was


on strike yesterday and I saw the programme and found it quite funny.


It is a typical thing that Jeremy Clarkson would say and I cannot


believe how out raged everyone is behaving. And your sister was not


offended? She was, actually, but I wasn't. I am angry that we are


discussing Jeremy Clarkson, because actually the issue, the industrial


action yesterday, is far bigger than Jeremy Clarkson.


He likes us to be talking about his latest contribution to public life.


This is the latest in a series of, you know, offensive, unpleasant


things from what seems to me to be a fairly unpleasant individual. One


thing that I do not understand is, what is the big deal with Jeremy


Clarkson? Where is the talent? Could someone else not do what he


does? I do not see what he adds. What does he had? Why do the BBC


seem to think that he has this amazing person? Because he has huge


audiences and we have had more questions about this than any other


subject. It must be something. not sure that is a determinant as


to whether somebody has talent. Well, his lawyers can write to you


themselves. I disagree. I am a fan of Jeremy Clarkson. I would say


that he does his bit, he generates public support by saying


controversial things. These controversial things obviously get


discussed, so he is doing his job completely. He says these things


just to annoy people, and he does his job well. But what is the point


in that? What is the point in just a needlessly annoying and defending


lots of people? If he had a heart attack tomorrow, the paramedic who


would be picking him up in the ambulance is somebody who would be


the subject of the satire he was engaging in. When he arrives in the


hospital, the same would apply to the people wheeling him into the


operating theatre. What is the point in annoying people in that


way you actually help society keep I think it is 50-50. Half of the


population, he affirms. The Bath lock him. But -- defends them.


wish I could say that I have never said anything foolish on television


but I cannot. Because I cannot, I will be careful about condemning


others who do. I am in your country so I do not want to meddle. You are


here to medal! This industrial action that was launched yesterday


has been described as not the first, more are to come. In the whole


world, we are going to pass through a difficult economic times. The


unleashing of this kind of strike at a time when sacrifices are going


to be called on from every industrial country, depending on


the decisions that are made on the Continent. Tough times are ahead


that Britain and the United States did not self-inflicted. But what


about the joke, was it just bad taste? People are going to say


foolish things and I am going to focus on trying to make sure that I


make as few foolish comments as possible, rather than being a


negative review on the foolish comments of others. The woman with


black hair and then you in a striped T-shirt. I agree that we


should be talking about something else. Jeremy Clarkson is the Lady


Gaga and Katie Price of the motoring world and he is building


his brand in the way that he does and his programme in life itself.


We should focus not on the stupidity of his comment, which he


did not issue a heartfelt apology for, but what is going on in the


world, the economy, the teachers and nursing assistants and everyone


Do you not think it is a massive over-reaction to something that was


said on the BBC? It is equally inappropriate for the deputy leader


of Unison macro to compare him to Gaddafi. Unless it is their


hairstyle. I think Clarkson has embarrassed


himself enough and he should just drive off and be forgotten. He has


gone to China so he will not be heard of Rideh or two. Let's go on


to the stuff in hand. -- for a day or two. Were the strikes justified?


I knew you were going to come to me first. I could not support the


action because I cannot support the disruption that it is going to


cause and it did cause to lots of people I represent in my


constituency. There were lots of parents who had to take the day off


work. But let me say this. I have lots of close family and friends


who took industrial action and I completely can understand where


they are coming from, which is why I do not condemn them for doing


what they did. It is not a decision that you take likely, to go on


strike. There were a huge number of people who went on strike for the


first time ever. And we have to ask why. What was it that caused them


to feel they had no option but to do this? And what caused them to


feel they had no option but to do this was a Government, if you like,


seeking to adopt a divide and rule strategy in relation to a society


they are supposed to be holding together, sitting up public against


private sector workers, which is disgraceful. -- setting them up.


And doing so in the context of saying that we have to reform our


pension system. We do. Most people will accept that we are probably


going to have to accept -- probably going to have to work for longer


and contribute more. The problem is that the 3% surcharge that the


public sector workers have been asked to contribute are not going


into different public sector pension schemes. It is going to


reduce the deficit and pay for the failure of the Government to sort


On your personal position, you are a trade union member. Yes. Did you


vote? No, I did not. You abstained. I will tell you why, because our


pensions are not affected by it. That is why I would not have


participated, because I am not impacted upon by the changes that


are proposed. I do not think that means that one cannot understand


where others were coming from. is it loyal to say about a strike


by two unions of which you are remember that you disagree with


them and you think they were wrong in your position? I have explained


my position. I do not support the disruption to my constituents.


I congratulate him on clearly being against the strike, because I was


not clear whether Ed Miliband was supporting it or not. He seemed to


be supporting it. I also congratulate Chuka on at -- on


actually saying that we have to reform pensions. I have not heard


any proposal from anybody else yet about quite how we do that. It will


affect MPs. The MP's salary scheme is unsustainable. It has not been


negotiated in the same way. We will have to bring it in line, so it


will affect MPs. But getting onto the main point, I understand that


everybody in the public sector is completely cheesed off with the


situation we are in. They have pay freezes and their pensions having


to be changed, so their future expectations change. Most people in


the country, including private sector people, are having to adjust


to the very serious consequences of the financial crisis that we are in.


We all know that the present public sector pensions are unsustainable.


This should have been done 20 years ago. The Bill is racing up for our


children and grandchildren. It does have to be addressed. And what is


immediately being done is a very good scheme has been produced by


the former Labour pensions minister, which, to my amazement, has kept a


final-salary scheme in place, but a less generous one. You will have to


work for longer. It is not. It is a career average scheme. Well, it is


a salary-based scheme, much better than anybody would have expected


him to recommend, much better than anything outside. Why did you not


do anything about this when you were Chancellor? You said it should


have been dealt with ages ago. the time, we assumed these pensions


could be sustained. Most of the private sector had them. Most of


the big private sector companies got rid of them about 10 years ago


when it became obvious that these obligations were piling up.


thought it would be all right. were not alerted to the problem. I


was getting out of a recession but not as bad as this one. It should


have been sorted out. Now they have had a day on strike, let's


negotiate the details, scheme by scheme. We are getting the balance


right between the taxpayer, paying for mounting deficits, and the


members, paying for what they are going to get. And they are meant to


be fair to everybody. The numbers are going to have to pay more


because they are getting better pensions than the average member of


the population. The taxpayer has to No general secretary of any union


will lead their members on strike unless there is a good cause. My


union has not taken national strike action before this dispute in 127


years. We do not lose our temper easily and throw our toys out of


the pram. This is a real and serious issue. Let me just say that


we have done everything in our power to get the Government to


listen. 120,000 teachers have signed a petition. We lobbied


Parliament in October, every MP was lobbied, thousands of teachers


lobbied MPs. We have written to our MPs, we have done everything


possible to get our point across. Ken Clarke says public sector


pensions are unsustainable. Let's be clear, the National Audit Office


said that the highest cost for public sector pensions will be next


year. And that from that time, they will be declining from 1.9% to 1.4%.


That is for a host of reasons, not least of which the new deal which


we negotiated in 2007. Under that deal, if there were greater costs


for living longer, the employees would pay for them, not the


employer. So, we negotiated all of that, and that is part of the


decline in public sector pensions. Of course, we are prepared to


negotiate a deal. But negotiating with this government is like trying


to do it in the dark. It took them until the 2nd November to come up


with a proposal. They then said... But why are you prepared to


negotiate if you say you did all of this in 2007 and there was no


problem? If they show us the sums on longevity, we will negotiate.


But you said there is no reason. union, if given the argument, would


not be prepared to negotiate. Before the Hutton report, they're


introducing a pension tax, taking 15% off the value of pensions, and


then they say, we're going to introduce a reference scheme. We


have not been able to negotiate, and nobody wanted the strike. My


members are teachers and lecturers. The last place they want to be is


on strike. I must have let Ken Clarke answer that point. Can you


stick to the point about the money and what Mary Bousted said about


all of this having been decided before. This is largely based on


figures which it was assumed that the Government had put in place. As


I said before, it is also how you share the cost. At the moment,


we're trying to get down public expenditure. And the burden is


shifting steadily to the general taxpayer, and they are really


putting ever more in each year, even after the 2007 deal, and the


members are trying to stay with their present contribution.


you're not putting it into the scheme, it is going back into the


general pot. The burden of maintaining the scheme, which is


going to be going up by �7 billion over the next five years, if we do


not do anything, is to be shared more by the members, than it to


keep falling on the taxpayer. It is because of longevity that the whole


thing is going to be more expensive. We're making sure that the


unfairness, as well as the un sustainability, is actually


addressed. We have been trying to make it all party. We have got a


Labour minister in. You do not believe nothing needs to be done...


The point is that there will have to be give and take on both sides,


but for that, there has to be a negotiation. Ministers have not sat


down in a room with... You think there is a problem? Of course,


that's why there needs to be negotiation. When did you last sit


down? I have said, if there is a problem, show us the sums, and we


will negotiate. We have not been able to do that. One more point


from you, then we must go to the audience. Is the problem nothing


like as big as the Government is claiming? In my view, we obviously


need to look at the sustainability of pensions going forward, but you


have got to have a discussion about it. So, there is a problem? There


is an issue that needs to be resolved, yes. We have heard about


this for such a long time, why are we only seeing it now? Secondly, we


know that the public sector are striking, but the private sector


are not. We need to think about the success of the economy. Going back


to the question about whether or not it is justified, I completely


understand why those in the public sector are feeling a bit hat. Apart


from the fact that promises and contracts were made, I get that. On


the other hand, I think there is not enough money. And sometimes in


life, you just get faced with decisions which are not just right


decisions which are not just right or wrong, they are, what is the


deciding factor? And here, the deciding factor is, there is not


enough money. Really, it is not what we want, it is not how we feel.


Of course we want our nurses and teachers, of course we want them to


be well paid and live well in their retirement. But there is not enough


money. You're going to tell me there is, because, as a percentage


of GDP going forward... Trust me, in the time that we are talking, we


have no idea, we are in very uncharted territory, we have to


protect our position. And we cannot make contracts that at some point


in the future we are going to really regret, because we're going


to burden the young people of today with those contracts, paying for


them, when it is all long gone. sir. There is always taxes, Deborah.


One thing which has not been mentioned so far is the increasing


contributions, and the threat that will pose to the viability of the


scheme, with disastrous consequences. You think taxes


should go up to pay for it? That would be my view. I thought the


second last questioner put it very well. People have been exposed to


the severest economic shock since the Great Depression. There is no-


one to strike against. You dealing with huge, imponderable global


forces. If you say, not only is that person going to be out of work,


not only is that business going to close, not only do they face a


higher taxes which will be coming everywhere in the future, but in


addition to that, that there is to be a sector of the society which is


going to be held harmless, while the society which pays the bills is


contracted, that's not very reasonable. It is not just about


the cost on future generations, it is the fact that they are staff in


our services in order to pay for pensions. You have towns in


California where, in order to pay the pensions for the Retired


firefighters and nurses, they are laying off present-day firefighters


and nurses. The past is devouring the future, and this cannot be.


There were several objectionable things in that answer. One of them


was the wealth creation. We were told going on strike, we were


losing �500 million. Public sector workers create wealth. I did not


use that phrase. You did. Also, it is dangerous jobs and jobs which


many people do not want to do. You're right, the Chartered


Institute for Personnel Development have said that it would take a 20%


opt-out for that deficit to be lost. Low-paid workers will opt out of


their pensions. New teachers starting in 2015, with 9% of their


wages going to pay off their other debt, and another 9% for pensions,


80% of their salary before you even begin, what you think they will do?


They will opt out. If they do so, this country will have people who


will be relying on nothing other than means-tested benefits in their


old age. The gentleman says, higher taxes, is that what you would like


to see? Yes, there is a range of things which can be done. Should


the taxpayer pay for it? taxpayer pays for private sector


pensions. �37 billion in 2000 and they spent on private sector


pensions, in tax relief, which was �12 billion more than was spent on


public sector pensions. completely agree with you, I really


do not like this division between public and private. The private


sector cannot survive without the public sector. And the other way


around. Absolutely, we are completely in this together.


Actually, I have been publicly on record to say, I agree with


taxation. What I worry about is, I do not mind handing my money over,


providing I am happy with what is done with it. However, Thaksin is


not always the answer, because there is one answer to this, and it


is economic growth. Because if we had economic growth, we would not


be having this debate. So, what we cannot possibly contemplate is a


taxation system which hinders economic growth. Let me bring in a


number of people in the audience. Just with your comments, if you


would, because we have got a lot to talk about. I'm pleased to hear a


slight change in rhetoric from the panel, and that there should be no


division between public and private. Let's also acknowledged public


service workers, of which I am one, and I was on strike yesterday, we


are taxpayers, let's not forget that. And you, sir, with the


spectacles. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.


Equitable Life went bust, the public sector pension scheme is


bust. Private sector taxpayers are bussed enough already, give us our


money back. The woman in the second row. I wanted to congratulate and


thank everyone who went on strike for exercising their rights to


protest. To protest against this horrible government, which was not


elected, and we should not forget that. Rather than encouraging


divisiveness in the population, senior politicians should be clear


about conditions of work and the dangers involved in certain jobs,


and not be simplistic and divisive about it. You think the argument is


over-simplified? Over-simplified, divisive, and putting the public


and private sector against each other. As Deborah Meaden, a


beautiful, successful woman rightly says, there is not enough money,


would she care to lend us some? don't know whether this is so, but


you have already lent �1.6 million to 26 different organisations.


than �2 million. How much have you made back? It is not that simple,


because these are ongoing businesses, but they are great


success stories, they make money, and they make me feel good. I


avoided the question nicely, didn't I? We will come back to it! At


I? We will come back to it! At first, if you're tweeting, our hash


The next question, from Amish Patel. Has George Osborne's economic plan


failed? Has it succeeded, perhaps, failed? Has it succeeded, perhaps,


is another way of looking at it? think we are one of the very few


governments the monks Western democracies which has actually got


a plan, and one which is still carrying confident. It is shown by


the fact that we have got such a low interest rates. If you started


putting up taxes to pay for public sector pensions, you wait and see


how long public confidence would last if you started doing that.


is it a plan which is succeeding? If people look at the Western


economies, we probably have had one of the deepest recessions. We have


a deficit on Greek proportions, we have a mounting stock of debt, we


are in an identical situation with a great number of European


countries. We had a government which just borrowed during the boom


times on the basis that it was easy money, and we now have a staggering


level of debt. This is one of the few countries where the outside


world generally believes we have a government, we have institutions,


we have a society which is capable of sorting this out. We do have a


plan. We are remaining in control of events. We now have to respond


to events, which have worsened in the world, because commodity prices


have soared, and because the sovereign debt crisis is casting an


immense shadow, and we are responding, and we do have a plan,


the plan is to stick where we are, and to get on top of the problem,


which is debt and deficit. You need a tough government at a time like


this. You have to ask for some of the sacrifices which we are asking


of public sector workers. You look around the rest of the Western


democracies, and, with the greatest of respect, and several have


already fallen, they are bobbing in the water. That's what's worrying


everybody, they cannot cope with it. We must deliver this, and it is


going to take a few years to get back to normality. But if you had a


change, a government which said, a bit tough fiscal easing is what is


required... I don't think Ed Balls believes what he is saying, because


he knows he will not be in Ed Balls said, we're going to cut


taxes to boost consumption and we're going to borrow a bit more.


It is getting awkward so we are going to make ourselves popular by


borrowing from foreigners. I don't know what interest rate he things


we would be paying in order to get that money, but it would look like


the kind of interest rate the Italians are paying and the Greeks


are paying, and that really would put us in the mire. How many people


in your constituency, according to the latest figures, Ards GSA


claimants? -- JSA claimants. It is quite low, below the national


average. How many? I do not know the exact number. 1287 people are


claiming that in your constituency, up by well over 10%. In this


constituency here, long-term youth unemployment has risen by 50%. In


your constituency, five people are chasing every vacancy. In mind, 20


people are chasing every vacancy. Are you seriously looking at all of


these people in his audience and all of our constituents and saying,


everything is fine, the plan is I am not saying everything is fine.


The Governor of the Bank of England has come out with remarks today


which I agree with. Of course I am not saying everything is fine. If


everything was fine, I would be trying to do... But you are


saying... It is caused by deficit, by global crisis, commodity price


inflation. That -- the problem we have at the moment is that we have


not had any growth. Since the Comprehensive Spending Review your


Government announced at this time last year, confidence fell, demand


plummeted and we have had, what? Growth revised down for this year


to 0.9% and 2.6 million people out of work. And the problem is that


you do not get growth, you cannot reduce your borrowing. 2.6 million


people we are paying benefit to and who are not paying income tax.


is your solution? Of course we need growth, that is a platitude. It is


a fact and we have not had it. question is of how you get growth.


As we said, there are a range of measures. How do they compare with


what has been described as the problem, will prices, inflation,


the American economy and the other things. Do not go through them,


because we have heard, but how do they rate? They are based on


borrowing more money. We will not take a lecture on borrowing from


you. I will not take a lecture on borrowing from you. You left the


borrowing behind. In a Thermos, -- in fairness, I think when you


ceased being Chancellor of the Exchequer, how debt as a percentage


of GDP was 46%. Before the global financial crisis, it had come down


by about 6%. The It was falling like a stone for the first three


years. Your record is not necessarily a beautiful one.


record is getting better growth with low inflation and stable


finances. Where is the growth? 1997, the economy was growing and


we were becoming one of the strongest in the Western world. And


then a man called Gordon Brown took over. He stuck to my figures for


three years and after that he behaved recklessly and


incompetently. This is becoming a Joule and we have three other


members. What do you say to the argument about interest rates going


up if you borrow and that would be devastating, George Osborne's


position and the coalition's position? You are prepared to risk


that? There is the base rate, and the Bank of England base rate is


lower at the moment because we have not had growth. In terms of


financing government borrowing, everybody knows that the reason we


are in a different position from other countries on the Continent is


that we have the ability to set monetary policy. Historically,


therefore, we have had lower interest rates. So you do not see


it as a problem? What do you mean? If you borrowed money, interest


rates would rise and we would be likely to leave. If you look at the


countries in the eurozone area which have had problems, the term


payment on our debt is longer and we can set our own interest rates


and the markets take that into account. I completely agree with


Ken Clarke because that is the way it works. The truth is, if other


countries lose confidence in us, we pay more money and it is as simple


as that. I think the Government have got things wrong, but they


have got one thing right, and that is sticking with Plan A, but with


imagination. Because it is a very unimaginative plan. I think it is


like running a business, but just a lot bigger and the output is


slightly different. In difficult times, what tends to happen is we


close down and think, I cannot spend any more money. I think we


have done that. What I would like to see now is a bit of imagination


about how we are going to get out of it, because that is the sense


that I do not get. I get that we are going to stop spending, we are


going to cut and reduce, but no imagination. What do you call


imagination? I talk about business, unsurprisingly. It is very


difficult at the moment to do business, to borrow money. The


Government has done something about that but within the current


confines. We look to the banking system and the banks and we try to


stimulate them. There are fantastic things going on - crowd funding.


People are saying, I am going to take the bank's art of the picture


and I want to lend that person money. -- out of the picture. That


is imaginative, getting cash into the system quickly. And he gets


people like me, who know how to help businesses, lending to


businesses that need cash and help. I think the Government should spend


more time looking at more imaginative ways of stimulating the


economy, not just... The man with the spectacles. As an ex Chancellor,


I think you need to concede that the low borrowing costs, of course


while we need a credible deficit reduction plan, the low borrowing


costs are due to poor prospects for economic growth for this country


for years to come. George Osborne is like a medieval Dr bleeding this


country, and when he sees it is not Going back, I am a member of the


Youth Parliament for this area and I represent the young people of


this area. Not only have they been discouraged to go to university,


but how can the economy grow when there is no confidence at all?


issue about the triple-A credit rating is that it is likely to be


imperilled if our borrowing requirement goes above a certain


level. If tax receipts carry on being so low because so many people


are not in work - and remember, another 310,000 public sector


workers will be put out of work - if you put people out of work, or


into low-paid work, the tax receipts go down and you have to


increase your borrowing requirement which will in peril your triple-A


rating. Do not tell me this is a really good idea and we are keeping


the triple-A rating because we are doing these difficult measures. As


you said, this medicine, you bleed the patient until there is no more


blood left and then they are dead. America lost its triple-A rating in


the summer. I think you need to lift the level of the camera. In


2008, the US elected a left-of- centre government that tried the


stimulative response and we are also having no economic growth.


Britain has done the opposite course and is getting the same


result. You do not have a British problem, we do not have an American


problem. This is a global problem. The question was, his George


Osborne's plan obsolete? Have a lot of respect for George Osborne. But


if this euro crisis continues to unravel, everybody's plans are


going to be obsolete because we are about to be confronted with the


second shock in a double shock that is the worst shock to the global


economy since the 1930s. When people are suffering in a


particular locality, and people are suffering a lot in Britain, as they


are in the United States, it is hard to understand that it is not


just happening to you but is happening worldwide. We have had


this extraordinary accumulation of indebtedness. It will express


itself in different ways and in different places, but it is the one


common global problem and it is now going to have what may be the worst


shock of all yet. That is why things like this strike are so


misplaced, because you're not going to be able to escape this gathering


global crisis by saying, we are going to take this sector, however


worthy and important, and they will be fenced off from this flood.


Everyone is going to... We need concerted global action, concerted


global anti-inflation. Right now, the scene is not Westminster, not


in Washington, but the Continent of Europe. So there is nothing


Washington and Westminster can do except watch what happens in


Europe? Up we have a right to make our voices heard. Good and bad


decisions on the Continent of Europe have an impact on all of us.


In this incredible alliance that we have, we have these institutions


that bring finance ministers and heads of government together and


they are supposed to talk and co- ordinate. We all need to be saying


to the people on the Continent, the Euro was not a good idea to start


with but allowing it to collapse would be a worse idea. Are you


saying that the arguments between Labour and the coalition Government


in this country are really, in effect, irrelevant because the


problem is much bigger than the things they talk about? If your


election had gone in a different way, I think he would be having the


same arguments with the opposite people saying the opposite lines.


There are various different ways it could have gone. I would just say


one thing of the back of what David has said. It is not correct to say


that everyone has been in the same boat. Our economy is growing slower


than any other economy in the G7, apart from Japan, which had an


earthquake. Your economy grew 1.5% in the last 12 months, hours only


grew by 0.5%. I agree that the eurozone is a big issue, but do you


provide foundations with which you can withstand the storm, or do you


tear them out, leaving us defenceless, which is what our


Government has done? That is why there is such a debate going on


right here. Are the coalition missing an opportunity for


imaginative growth by ditching the Green economy?


If there is anything we can say with certainty over the last few


years in terms of economic plans, it is that the people who say that


they know do not actually know. Really, the whole point is that,


why not get people who know what they're talking about, people like


Deborah Meaden, who have made money, to help with economic plans,


because this is the blind leading the blind? The economists do not


know, but Deborah Meaden does? has made money. We are taking some


of her advice. You have never asked me for any advice! I take your


advice, I am doing something to help business. It is not as popular


as putting up taxes to keep pensions in tax but is a sensible


way of building foundations for future growth, which requires


stability first and a freedom from debt to really take off. The UK are


missing a big opportunity in Africa, because China are going in. They


are going into a different situation, bartering. They have


offered Nigeria 5 billion for three oil plants. They are also putting


in infrastructure, which the UK are brilliant at putting in


infrastructure, better than the Chinese material that comes out.


The one thing that England are truly missing is Africa. Africa has


a 100 billion export industry. you are not talking about the aid


which the government is hitting its targets on? Despite that, it is


infrastructure that Africa is missing. These are dark days this


week, after the Autumn Statement. Inevitably, the questions are about


the economy and jobs. Why do British teenagers find it so


difficult to find jobs when eastern Europeans seem to be quite able to


Deborah Meaden... I'm so glad you asked this question, this is a real


issue for me. I think that in the UK we made a decision quite a while


ago to become a very service- oriented country. We were happy to


give up our manufacturing base and we talk to our children, the whole


school curriculum, it was all about, academia, go to university, and if


you don't, just get yourself a job in manufacturing or something like


that. We have been letting our young people down, so that reaching


the moment where they're actually going to choose jobs, they are


not... The jobs that they have been educated for, they're just not


there. It is not good enough. I hear a lot of really good stuff


from the Government, I have to be honest. I think the appendage game


and all of those things are fantastic, but they tackle it at


the wrong end. -- the apprenticeship scheme. Because at


16, these young people are thinking, if I cannot go to university, I am


a failure. How come people from the EU are taking 90% of the new jobs


which were created last year, for instance? I don't know what they


are trained for. But if it is in manufacturing, that is exactly what


I'm talking about, because our young people do not think


manufacturing is a credible job. How important is manufacturing?


They do not get to learn in school, they do not get to make things in


school, or do things with their hands. And if they do do those


things, it is not valued, because the value is all placed on academia.


We have got to correct that, because we have made promises to


them which we're completely failing on. We are in Dagenham, maybe we


will hear something about employment here. What do you say,


as a member of the teachers' union, about this, Mary Bousted?


completely agree with Deborah Meaden, we have had an academic


curriculum for far too long. Successive governments have said


that the curriculum is about academic subjects and reading and


writing. Of course, those are important, but we have completely


downgraded other things. That means making things, and the practical


application of theoretical subjects. You learn a lot about the practical


application of maths and science through actually doing thing. I


have to say, this government is revising the national curriculum,


and we're going to end up with a much more academic, theoretical


curriculum. The Government has actually said, the new curriculum


should not include skills, because skills just happened. They have,


they have said that, I have spoken to the Secretary of State about the


new curriculum. It is clear that you do not include skills, skills


just happen. We have done that for far too long. We have to educate


our young people. Even the most able academic young people need


experience in making and doing. We need a broad curriculum for all.


And we have not had that for far too long. I was just going to say,


I could not agree with Deborah Meaden more. As a teenager and a


student, I am lucky enough to have a part-time job. We are being


encouraged to go to university and everything, but how can we do that


when we have not got any opportunities? Has there been any


suggestion of you learning trades, or apprenticeships or engineering


skills? Or is it all targeted at getting to university? We are


encouraged to do so, but we have to do it off Arran back these days. It


is a lot harder to get a job. somebody who's from Dagenham, who


understands this area very well, I have set up my own recruitment


agency, the question was asked about young British youngsters, as


opposed to Eastern European youngsters, we have got a situation


whereby a there's a lot of young British people who seem to have the


attitude of, the world owes me a living. A lot of them do not want


to work. A lot of people do not want to work. I do not like that at


all. I think young people get brought to a point. It is very


populist to talk about good for nothings, layabouts, and I have


seen them, they come to work for me, they look like they are not


interested, and they're disengaged - what took them to that place?


That's what I am talking about, it is the whole system that makes them


feel disengaged, makes them feel... Do you know, it is really confusing


to be a teenager, you don't know what you want, you do not know who


you're off. On top of that, we are not leading them to a place and


giving them their options. So I do not go with that populist you. I


have got some very difficult young people working for me, and frankly


at times I have thought, for goodness sake! But doesn't a lot of


that come from the parents as well? We're putting our arms around them


too much. I agree, I'm not pointing fingers, I do not like blame. The


only point of looking back for blame is to make sure we do not do


it again. I'm not pointing fingers, I'm saying that it will be in


everything, parenting, education, but somehow, we have brought our


young people to a point where I think they are very confused, they


have lacked guidance, they have not been educated for the life they are


about to get, and we have failed them. American culture is very


different, they have a very different structure, and yet we


have exactly the same youth unemployment problem. I think if


you're having the same disease showing up in a range of patients,


with different life histories, living in different places, then


you need to stop looking for patient specific causes of the


disease. The disease that you have in Dagenham is the same disease


that you will find in Cleveland, Michigan, it is a global problem,


with youth unemployment. They are the new entrants to the market. It


happens in Europe, where people make things very comfortable for


incumbents. Britain is in the middle. But in the United States,


we do not make things comfortable, it is very easy to fire. I think


the curriculum is very powerful, but one thing, if I were making


decisions in Britain about education, I would say, as part of


the EU, you have to emphasise languages. One reason the Eastern


European teenagers are here is because your teenagers are not


there. The Polish economy is growing, how many young British


people speak Polish? German, French, if you're going to have a


continental economy, and be participants in it, you cannot say


that because Britain won two world wars, therefore British people


never have to learn the language of their customers. And by the way,


Americans are as guilty, or worse. And you as a Canadian can speak


French? I actually teach here in Dagenham, and the young people I


teach are bright, polite, hard- working, personable teenagers,


regardless of their background. The problem is, when I talk to them,


they're scared of going to university because of the debt, and


they look at what jobs are available and they simply say,


there is nothing for us to go to. It is a real push in schools just


to get grades up, for the league tables, but what about the actual


students, that's what the schools are for? Do you agree with what


Mary Bousted was saying about the curriculum being tipped too much


towards academic success? We're going back to the grammar school


system, how is that a forward step, if we're going backwards. We need


to adapt to the times. Can we deal with this, Ken Clarke, because


obviously the curriculum is changing, but specifically on what


Mary Bousted said about it being too academic. Manufacturing is not


people on conveyor belts, it is all about high-tech manufacturing,


which we are quite good at at the moment. What Michael is trying to


say is that you do need literacy and numeracy. It is not just...


you need the practical application. We also have a massive


apprenticeship which came under way as well, which has been praised. --


apprenticeship scheme. But the apprenticeships to require a good


basic level of education. It was all about rebalancing the economy,


and then you're talking about education reform, we're talking


about work programmes which the Government is bringing in. You are


talking about welfare reform, because you have got to combine


making it more attractive to work and to be on benefit with giving


help to people who are stuck and getting disillusioned, to get


themselves into work. There is a massive effort going on. It has hit


the whole world, as you say. It has not just started, our youth


unemployment has been going up for several years. It is worse in Spain.


It is across the Western democracies. At the moment, we have


a range of things for tackling that, very radical reforms in education


and training and work programmes and apprenticeships. Unfortunately,


it will take some years. But if you wreck the economy, you're going to


get nowhere. It goes back to having a strong hand guiding the economy


so that you can get growth. My fear is that a lot of the services that


the young people here in Barking & Dagenham rely on, which might help


them get a job, are being cut. Charities which might be able to


advise young people, these services are being cut because of the


climate that we are in, and local authorities are really struggling


to offer that support to young people. Things like Connections are


being cut. So, you think the prospects are getting worse at the


moment because of this lack of support? We're putting support into


the job centres for young people. think the saddest thing is that


this is probably the first generation of young people where I


think families are wondering whether their young people will go


on to do better than them. I think that is incredibly sad. We have got


to be very careful about the way we talk. I appreciate what you said


about young people. I think in this country we have the most talented,


energetic, fantastic young people, and we have really got to talk them


up. Because God, there are going to be faced with a far more difficult


climate than we are having to deal with. But I do not think it is a


zero-sum game, vocational on the one hand or University, it is both.


We need to be good at both of those things. Apologies to those who have


had their hands up for some time. Particularly you, sir. I will give


you a quick last word. Oh, you have spoken already? She was right about


the curriculum, Michael Gove's English Baccalaureate means that


things like technology will be squeezed. One of the biggest drops


in teacher vacancies is in in teacher vacancies is in


technology. We have to stop because our time is up. Next week we will


be in Stoke-on-Trent. Among those on the panel will be the boss of


Next. Then there is a break for Christmas, and we will be back, in


David Dimbleby chairs Question Time from Dagenham. The panel includes: Ken Clarke, Justice Secretary; Chuka Umunna, Shadow Business Secretary; Mary Bousted, head of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers; David Frum, former speechwriter to President George W. Bush; and Deborah Meaden, businesswoman.

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