08/12/2011 Question Time


08/12/2011

David Dimbleby chairs Question Time from Stoke-on-Trent, with panellists including Tristram Hunt, Claire Perry, Lord Wolfson, Mehdi Hasan and Constance Briscoe.


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Transcript


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First it was six weeks to save the euro, then 10 days, and now we are

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told 24 hours. We are on tenterhooks here in the King's Hall,

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Stoke-on-Trent. Welcome to Question Time.

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With me on the panel, Simon Wolfson, the boss of the high street chain

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Next, which has a turnover of several billion pounds a year. The

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Conservative MP and former banker, Claire Perry, historian and Labour

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MP Tristram Hunt, Mehdi Hasan of the New Statesman, and Constance

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Briscoe, one of Britain's first Thank you very much. The first

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question from Mike Petty. Does David Cameron have the necessary

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bulldog spirit to deal with the euro crisis? Mehdi Hasan? No, but

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not for the reason you think. I will come on in a moment to why I

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think he should not be going with a bulldog spirit to Brussels. He

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should be going to defend British national interest, European

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interests - we are a European country - and global interests,

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because if the euro fails we are on the verge of another global

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depression. We will see massive unemployment, all sorts of chaos

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which will make the 2008 crisis look like a walk in the park.

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Cameron, however, has failed - and it is not just him, all of the

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European leaders have failed to show visionary leadership - but our

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Prime Minister in particular at this moment of crisis is busy

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dealing with domestic problems, people like Claire and backbench

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Tory MPs who are causing all sorts of problems. And the way to think

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of the eurozone crisis is to imagine a car speeding towards the

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edge of a cliff, about to drive over the edge of a cliff. Angela

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Merkel is at the wheel, driving away, firmly steering ahead,

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Nicolas Sarkozy is next to her trying to read the map and give

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advice, and our Prime Minister is bound and gagged in the boot of the

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car, with absolutely no influence on what is going on. They are not

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interested in listening to him because he has little constructive

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things to say apart from, I want things for me and my party

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otherwise I am not going to play. Does he not have a veto? Isn't the

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implication that if they would all 27 to agree, he has a veto?

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don't know if he does. Do you think so? It depends what they come up

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with tomorrow. If one Britain against 26 other countries tries to

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operate a veto that blocks idyll, they will go ahead without us. The

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problem is that we have a Prime Minister who has not gone with any

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constructive mindset. They are not stupid in Brussels. Everyone is

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trying to sort out the biggest crisis in modern history and we

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have a Prime Minister whose backbenchers are telling him to go

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with bulldog spirit so they can bring back holiday rights and all

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of these rights that the Tory backbench have wanted back from

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Europeans for many years. It is just not a constructive attitude --

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attitude. The thing that Britain also has is a large contribution to

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the EU. We are one of the largest contributing economies. That, as

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well as David Cameron's dogged spirit towards solving this crisis

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will mean that we have a seat at the table. What we have now is not

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a constitutional crisis politicians have talked about in dark rooms for

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years. We have an economic crisis that is threatening to put the

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world back into a very, very dark place, let alone just the British

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economy. It is absolutely right that David Cameron goes out there

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and negotiates as hard as he can, both for those 17 countries to get

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together and sort themselves out, to make that experiment that has

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been going on work, that is in everybody does no interest in this

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country. But also to say - I do not think it is just Tory backbenchers

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who want to repatriate powers from Brussels, to correct you - they are

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all sorts of rules and regulations that are strung round the necks of

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businesses across the country that have come down from Brussels, that

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business people in my constituency say they want to get rid of.

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this the right moment to do that, when the eurozone is about to

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relapse? If you are in negotiation you say, if you want something from

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us, we want something in return. What powers is he going to come

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back to the UK with on Saturday having been in these negotiations?

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What can we look forward to? should come back next week and

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discuss it. It depends. We have a group of 17 who were trying

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desperately to work out a political structure that enables them to

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function and go forwards. There is a group of 27 who need to be

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involved in a broad consensus. does Labour want? What Labour wants

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is for the eurozone to work. Just that? We want the eurozone to work

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for Britain and to work for itself. Mehdi Hasan is right, the

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consequences of a collapse in the eurozone are terrifying. It would

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not just be a 10% loss of GDP perhaps on the Continent, but here

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in the UK we would lose up to 7% of GDP if the eurozone crashers.

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Should he negotiate, or should he just agree with Merkel and Sarkozy?

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We have concerns about working-time directives, about financial

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regulations. But the way to do that is not what Cameron has done, which

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is a very antagonistic diplomatic process. Our neighbour's house is

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on fire and Cameron's response is to work out what he can steal from

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the basement. I disagree. economy is tied to theirs. This is

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in the UK national interest. In Stoke-on-Trent, you know that it is

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getting creasing the economic team difficult. That is because of the

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collapse of markets in the eurozone. -- increasingly economically

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difficult. What Cameron should be doing is working out how to make it

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better rather than going in with this little England, Essex bulldog

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spirit, what can I get from these people? Rather than thinking about

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the broader perspective of the euro economy. What is this about Essex?

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It is British bulldog, not Essex bulldog. It was a mental alignment.

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He was asked the question by an MP from Essex. There is a swathe of

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the Conservative Party in Essex, Kent, who hate the European Union

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and want to use this as an opportunity to detach us. Nonsense.

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Let me hear from the man up there. As recent figures have shown that

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the public and even the Labour Party itself have very little

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confidence in Ed Miliband and the Labour Party's record on the

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economy in general, does the Labour Party have any credibility on this

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issue at all? It has profound credibility because we have been

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proved right on the big economic questions over the last two years.

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You cannot really trust a man who would stab his brother in the back,

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can you? Let's get real. Don't come here and

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tell us it is terribly cosy when you are prepared to do various

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members of your family down. That is the first point. Secondly, in

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relation to what should David Cameron do, it is very difficult

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for him because, of course, he has two overriding objectives. The

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first is that he should not give away any more power in this country.

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The second is that he should protect the City of London. They

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are the two overriding objectives. In addition to that, he should do

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what he has done very well. He should sit, defensively, on the

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fence and encourage the 17 members of the eurozone to sort out their

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mess. They should be given every single encouragement. Surely the

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priority is the UK economy, not the City of London, not just the banks.

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You have had your say, let me finish. Having said that, we need

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to realise that we now have what is called the Merkozy miracle, in

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relation to Sarkozy and Merkel, who have issued a threat to this

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country. What they have said is that if the 27 members of the EU do

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not agree, they will go ahead with the 17 members of the eurozone.

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What would your reaction be to that? How do you think Cameron

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should react? In relation to that, Cameron should firstly make it

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absolutely clear that there should be no realignment of a treaty. We

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should not, for example, giveaway... Let me take a step back. If we have

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an alignment. What is an alignment? If we have a treaty of 17, they

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will have a strong fiscal union... Which is what Cameron says he wants.

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That is part of his problem because he has been provoked -- promoting

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that for a very long time in opposition and now that he is

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leader he has been hoisted by his own petard. What is it that you

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think he is doing right and what is he doing wrong? Is he being the

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bulldog? He cannot be a bulldog, can he. That is complete nonsense.

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Yona today in Marseilles the centre right parties got together to have

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a meeting about the euro. Guess which party was not there, the

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Conservative Party, because Cameron pull them out to win a leadership

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election. He is there at the moment, actually. He is there this evening.

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Why was he not there? Because he pulled his party out. Why? To

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appease Euro-sceptic backbenchers. I think Mehdi Hasan said something

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interesting, that they are not stupid in Brussels. I have to say I

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disagree with that. It was Brussels that designed this

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insane monetary system that could never have worked in the first

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place, that is unravelling before our eyes. They designed it and now

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they have got to sort out the mess. Ironically, I have to say, I

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support the Prime Minister's attempts to help them. We should be

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under no illusion as to what would happen if the euro were to unravel

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the overnight in a disorderly fashion. It would harm everyone,

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everyone in this room, every business in Britain. The reason is

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simple. Our banks have lent a lot of money to people in southern

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Europe. If those countries drop out of the euro and devalue their

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currency, our debts to them will also be devalued and they will have

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to take a right down. Those debts are our savings. We cannot afford

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to see the banking system sees up again, because if the euro

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collapses in a disorderly way, what we will see is something infinitely

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worse than what we saw when Lehman Brothers collapsed. Having said

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that, we need to face up to another profound reality, and that is that

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whilst we have got to fix this patient while it is in intensive

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care, long-term the euro cannot survive. And it cannot survive for

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a very simple reason, and that is nothing to do with the financial

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markets, it is to do with the labour markets. Over the last 10

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years, Greek wages have risen 30% relative to German wages. That

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means that they are structurally and competitive. They are locked

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into 16% unemployment, Spain into 20% on employment. Fiscal union

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will not solve that. All that it will do is to guarantee ongoing

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unemployment in southern Europe and ongoing taxation in northern Europe

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to pay the unemployment benefits. Long-term, Government has to think

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about harvesting is dismantled. -- how this thing is dismantled.

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Wolfson, you have offered �250,000 to anyone who can, but the answer

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to this question. We have 150 people here waiting to win. The

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woman in the third row and then the man behind. In answer to you, I

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wonder how David Cameron got into the boot of that car. And if he is

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in the boot, cardi come out and do what other sensible economists are

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trying to do, focus on Africa and other places? Even if we go with

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this new treaty that I am sure he will be bullied into, there is no

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guarantee it will work. What if it does not work? Then we are stuck.

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That is a vital point, because the emerging markets, India, China,

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Africa, they are interested in the UK as part of the European Union.

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We cannot succeed on the post- colonial bilateral relationships

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that this Government things it can build. We are part of a big trading

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bloc and we need to make it work. David Cameron is not doing that

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because he has to appease the Tory party. The bank has messed up the

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country in 2008, Cameron is going over there to protect the bankers

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of the City of London yet again. The area of North Staffordshire has

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been crippled. There is no manufacturing, no jobs here, and

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the last big employer, the public sector, they are battering them as

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well. I think it is a disgrace that dip -- that Europe is dragging us

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I speak as someone who worked in financial services 10 years ago. I

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have been sanitised by motherhood since then, so it was a long time

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ago. It is not just bankers. It is Britannia Building Society, that

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very important local business. These are financial services

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companies, all of whom are currently subject to 49 pieces of

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European regulation and legislation. What we need to do, of course we

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need to rebalance the economy. should not deregulate them and

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allow the kind of liberty is that they took advantage of them brought

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down the economy with. They should be regulated by British economists

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and politicians. We are part of the global market. You speak about

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regulation, HSBC were robbing old people have their pensions and

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their money. Nobody is accountable for that. Nobody is accountable for

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that. Why have none of the top bankers been accountable? Do you

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want Europe and Brussels making One at a time, please. The most

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important win macro is that every time the Conservatives talk about

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the national interest, they are really talking about the City of

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London, the same City of London that caused this crash. There was a

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report out today that the banking crash cost us five years of growth.

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For the last few weeks, we have had Conservative MPs mocking the Labour

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Party because they are funded by the trade unions. The Conservative

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Party gets 50% of its funding from the City of London. That is why it

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is their interest. If he wrong to defend the City from more taxation?

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Yes. How much taxation do they provide to the UK? The financial

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transaction tax could raise EUR59 billion. It is supported by Bill

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Gates and a lot of important people. It is a tax which would help

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prevent another crisis, and our Government wants no part of it. It

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could raise �20 billion for people in this country. That is what

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Cameron is going to stop. I wish he wouldn't. It is easy to beat the

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banks up. Sarkozy is not doing this for ideological or altruistic

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reasons, he is doing it because the British banks will end up paying

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35% of that tax. Britain will end up paying tax to Europe if that tax

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is introduced. The judge from the next another important point about

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manufacturing. Inasmuch as southern European countries' currencies are

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overvalued, Germany's currency is undervalued. Germany are

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undercutting UK prices by 15 to 20% as a result of this absurd military

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structure, which is another reason why we have to say, we need to

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think again. I will take a second question on this and come back to

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what many see as the number of the party for the Conservative Party.

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Roger Thomas has a question. If you are tweeting tonight about this,

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and you want to join in, remember Roger Thomas. If the EU treaty is

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amended, will David Cameron be forced to hold the referendum?

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the treaty is amended, which Angela Merkel once, will David Cameron be

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forced to hold a referendum? Claire Perry, you know what Cameron said

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in 2007, a cast-iron guarantee that he would hold a referendum on any

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EU treaty that emerges from the negotiations that were going on

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them. Will he be forced to hold one now? One of the first things hour -

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- us new backbenchers were asked to get involved with was an act of

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parliament that meant this was never David Cameron's decision. The

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decision on referendums will never be in the gift of a political party.

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It is enshrined in law that if any treaty suggests that we should

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transfer powers to Europe, which was done several times with various

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treaties over the last 20 years, it will automatically be put to a

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referendum. It is not David Cameron's decision or the decision

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of backbenchers. I have always thought a referendum would be a

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good thing, because the AV referendum was a chance for the

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British people to get involved in some complicated arguments and

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understand the facts. The problem with the debate about Europe is

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that it happens in a fact free vacuum. So you are in favour of

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one? But the problem is, or what is the question? I think we have to be

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involved in the European trading bloc. The question is, we will have

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a referendum on certain powers. Do people think it is appropriate to

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transfer power to Brussels? Not, should we be in the EU? The notion

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of saying whether we should be in or out of a trading bloc is

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redundant, but let's have the facts in front of the British people. We

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have been denied the opportunity for decades. This is why people

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have become heated about this, because they are frustrated. We

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have never had the chance to have a democratic vote. Tristram Hunt?

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Technically, there is no need for a referendum, because it would be a

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consolidation of powers within the euro 17. It will not be a transfer

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of powers from the UK to the Eurozone. The problem is, David

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Cameron pandered to the Euro- sceptic part of his party. He made

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them promises about repatriation and referendums. A nudge and a wink.

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How do you know this? I read his speeches, to my horror. He wants to

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hold on to that part of the party, so they think they will get a

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referendum. Six weeks ago, he was talking about repatriation.

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Throughout his time in terms of the leadership of the party, he said we

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sceptics at the Mansion House speech a few weeks ago. His entire

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language is hostile to Europe. This is holding his coalition together.

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It is no surprise that they think they should have a referendum. I

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would not be in favour of a referendum on this, because look at

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the situation in Greece. There was a massive crisis about the Eurozone.

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George Papandreou offered a referendum on the whole thing went

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into meltdown and it got nowhere. We need action over the next two

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days to save the Eurozone. Now is not the time for a referendum.

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agree. We do not want a battle over a referendum. You, sir? If you give

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the British people the arguments to support being pro EU, at least give

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them the credibility to understand them and make a reasoned judgment.

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The politicians do not want a referendum, because they do not

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trust us to come up with your answer. But it does not necessarily

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affect the UK. What is going on in terms of the debate tonight and

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tomorrow will not necessarily affect UK power relations. You will

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have a consolidation of powers amongst the Eurozone. We are not in

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the euro, and I agree with that. If there was a chance of joining the

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euro, then we should have the referendum. That is a seismic

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political decision. He says you will only have a referendum if you

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think you will win it. I am always interested in what the public say.

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But you will not let them have a vote. I will. But not now. If David

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Cameron goes to the European summit and comes back with a referendum,

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it just shows the weakness of his leadership. If we leave the inner

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sanctum of the Eurozone, we will be a weaker nation for it. We are not

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in the Eurozone. I think that is right. Which bits? What he said. I

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do not think the politicians trust us to be honest enough and

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straightforward enough to give them the sort of decision they want. If

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they do decide to hold a referendum, they will have to budget for least

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two of them because if we have the nerve to give the answer Europe

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does not like, we will have referendums until we give the

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Do the panel think that David Cameron ought to make a decision?

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He does not appear to want to be a part of the club. All he wants is

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the financial benefits in relation to business, but he does not want

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any benefits or any of the complications and obligations that

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go with Europe. You either want to be a member of the club, or you

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don't. Absolutely. If that is what the Prime Minister wants, or the

0:23:550:23:59

financial benefits of a free market, free movement of people, free

0:23:590:24:04

movement of capital, and not the absurd regulation and rules and red

0:24:040:24:08

tape that go with being part of the EU, then that is the right thing to

0:24:080:24:15

go for. Why should we accept a host of regulation in this country? In

0:24:150:24:18

order to have the economic benefits of being part of a trade union? I

0:24:180:24:24

am in favour of being part of the EU, but not in favour of the chores

0:24:240:24:31

they give our industry. Before we leave this and go to another

0:24:310:24:35

subject, can ask all of you, do any of you think it will be reasonable

0:24:350:24:42

for the Prime Minister to come back with nothing, simply having helped

0:24:420:24:51

the French and Germans restore the strength of the euro? Yes. I think

0:24:510:24:57

that is probably the safest course for him. He has the Euro-sceptics

0:24:570:25:00

on one side, he has the EU and his national audience. The best thing

0:25:000:25:04

for him to do is to come back and say, I told them to sort out the

0:25:040:25:10

mess, and they promised me they would do it, and then to appease

0:25:100:25:13

Angela Merkel and Sarkozy and make sure they do not have an inner

0:25:130:25:19

sanctum from the 27-15 and make sure they do not have the central

0:25:200:25:24

economic bank getting involved with the 17th so that they can then buy

0:25:240:25:28

bonds and have quantitative easing. Come back empty-handed, and

0:25:280:25:35

everyone will be happy. A couple of things. You said people never had a

0:25:350:25:41

chance. They haven't. They can vote in every general election. UKIP and

0:25:410:25:49

the BNP offer a way out, and they do not get many votes. This week,

0:25:490:25:52

Iain Duncan Smith said he should hold a referendum. Owen Paterson

0:25:520:26:00

said we should hold a referendum, and the mayor of London said so.

0:26:000:26:05

This so what? They all think it is David Cameron's decision. Downing

0:26:050:26:09

Street has been slapping them down or wick. I'm at tonight that there

0:26:090:26:13

is a Conservative MP and a Conservative peer. No cabinet

0:26:130:26:20

members. They know they cannot come out here and say no referendum. The

0:26:200:26:23

Prime Minister dabbled in all this rubbish. The one thing that

0:26:230:26:28

everyone here would ask that you guys do is to pull together and get

0:26:280:26:38
0:26:380:26:39

us through this. Absolutely right. And Tristram, get your leader to

0:26:390:26:47

stop yapping like a little poodle. I do not think that is fair. Well,

0:26:470:26:54

you wouldn't. Not in public. private. Your leader wants to go

0:26:540:27:01

into the euro. Ed focused on the political crisis that David Cameron

0:27:010:27:06

faces this week. It is find that he comes back with nothing and he has

0:27:060:27:09

helped our European partners and shown he is a good European, but

0:27:090:27:15

instead, he has made promise after promise that he will use any treaty

0:27:150:27:20

renegotiation to repatriate powers. Here is a treat you renegotiation,

0:27:200:27:29

Prime Minister. Referring to Mehdi Hasan, we were supposedly given the

0:27:290:27:33

opportunity of a vote on Europe in a general election as soon as the

0:27:330:27:38

party who got in power -- as soon as the party got in power, it was

0:27:380:27:42

dropped. Let me agree with what you were saying. It is extraordinary

0:27:420:27:47

that we have had this conversation about the euro, and three of our

0:27:470:27:51

panellists have spent more time talking about party leaders and the

0:27:510:27:59

currency. To be fair, that was what we were asked. We will take a brief

0:27:590:28:04

break and divert to Liam Hodgkinson. Is it right for the Government to

0:28:040:28:09

double deal -- to double up the Olympic ceremonies budget? It was

0:28:090:28:12

announced this week that the budget for the Olympic Games

0:28:120:28:16

controversially increased by �40 million, enough to pay for 1000

0:28:160:28:21

teachers, I am told, or double the grant they gave this year to end of

0:28:210:28:25

life care in the hospices. Constance, do you think it is

0:28:250:28:30

right? No, this is another example of the extraordinary waste that the

0:28:300:28:34

Government is prepared to get into, wasting taxpayers' money. They set

0:28:340:28:39

a budget, they go beyond it and then glibly say, we are going to

0:28:390:28:49
0:28:490:28:53

increase it. It is scandalous. That is my view. Simon? And the eyes of

0:28:530:28:58

the world will be turned on Britain when the Olympics come up. Over 1

0:28:580:29:02

billion people will be watching. The thing they will focus on most

0:29:020:29:12
0:29:120:29:12

are the opening and closing ceremonies. It strikes me as

0:29:120:29:18

extraordinarily penny-pinching to say that we are prepared to have a

0:29:180:29:22

second great Olympics and for the world to see its like that for the

0:29:220:29:25

sake of what sounds like a lot of money, but in the context of the

0:29:250:29:29

government spending �600 billion, is a drop in the ocean. What do we

0:29:290:29:35

want the world to think of us? We have four powers to tell the world

0:29:350:29:40

what Britain is about, and we are not prepared to spend �40 million?

0:29:410:29:44

When they draw up the budget, they knew precisely what the cost would

0:29:440:29:48

be for a first rate Olympics. What it is suggesting, that we

0:29:480:29:53

negotiated something that was second or third rate? So you think

0:29:530:29:56

it was sleight-of-hand that they would not let us know at the

0:29:560:30:06
0:30:060:30:08

beginning? That is what is being Britain is not about singing,

0:30:080:30:13

dancing and fireworks. There is more to us than that and we are in

0:30:130:30:16

tight financial times. Surely we should be showing that we can pull

0:30:170:30:23

our belt him. How would you start the Olympic Games? Just by having

0:30:230:30:29

the 100 metres final? Simon Wolfson says it is penny pinching. What is

0:30:290:30:33

penny pinching is that Stoke-on- Trent council have closed the gym

0:30:330:30:37

to save �50,000, when hundreds of people who are disadvantaged and

0:30:370:30:41

overweight could join for free. How many more of those Nationwide will

0:30:410:30:51
0:30:510:30:54

have to close so that we can have What I was going to say is that you

0:30:540:30:58

talk about penny pinching and I agree with the gentleman down there.

0:30:580:31:01

�40 million might be a drop in the ocean in terms of the Government

0:31:010:31:06

budget, but it is a huge amount of money. Think about 1000 teachers. I

0:31:060:31:11

am a trainee teacher. Maybe not 1000 teachers, the 1000 support

0:31:110:31:14

workers who do a vital job in schools, lots of those jobs are

0:31:140:31:19

going. That is hurting the education system in this country.

0:31:190:31:23

�40 million to people on low income is a massive amount of money. A

0:31:230:31:33
0:31:330:31:38

massive amount of money. Claire Perry, do you support this? As I

0:31:380:31:42

caught the very good train service to Stoke, there is a big clock in

0:31:420:31:45

Trafalgar Square that ticks down to the Olympics and I noticed it was

0:31:450:31:49

265 days left. It will be a fantastic event. The eyes of the

0:31:490:31:53

world will be on us. Like the royal wedding, we do is incredibly well

0:31:530:31:58

and it is good for our economy. But in some cases, I agree. When money

0:31:580:32:02

is tight, surely the thing to do is to say, that is the amount of money

0:32:020:32:07

we have, how far can we make it stretch? Could you not go to

0:32:070:32:10

suppliers and say, let's get together, this is great for Britain.

0:32:100:32:15

How about we get those double- decker buses for free? I want every

0:32:150:32:18

penny to be spent incredibly carefully and wisely at the current

0:32:180:32:23

time. It might be a good investment, we can look after the event, but I

0:32:230:32:26

am disappointed that at this late stage we're chucking more money at

0:32:260:32:35

it. Has anyone come to Next asking for money? We are sponsoring the

0:32:350:32:42

opening and closing but I am not allowed to say that on TV. If you

0:32:420:32:45

are sponsoring the opening and closing that explains why you think

0:32:450:32:50

it is the important part of the Olympics! We are sponsoring it

0:32:500:32:55

because we think it is important. You are one of the Chancellor's

0:32:550:32:59

biggest cheer leaders when it comes to cuts. A year ago you wrote to

0:32:590:33:02

the Telegraph saying the cuts were important, would revive the economy,

0:33:020:33:07

it would not damage the recovery. You were wrong. You wrote that

0:33:070:33:10

calling for cuts and then use a �40 million is a drop in the ocean and

0:33:100:33:14

penny pinching, when public services are being closed,

0:33:140:33:18

teachers' pay, all of these issues. I do not understand how the Prime

0:33:180:33:21

Minister can tell us about austerity and the need to share the

0:33:210:33:26

pain, etc, and when he is shown a video, as he was earlier this week

0:33:260:33:30

and he says, I do not like that, yes we will go to �41 million extra

0:33:300:33:33

at the drop of a hat. The money is always there when you need to find

0:33:330:33:38

it. �41 million for the Olympics, �4 billion a year for Afghanistan,

0:33:380:33:41

but when it comes to the public sector workers and the poorest

0:33:410:33:51
0:33:510:33:54

people, it is never a drop in the As part of the Government cuts,

0:33:540:33:57

they cut school sports funding which was part of the Olympic

0:33:570:34:02

legacy. I cannot understand how they justify spending an extra �40

0:34:020:34:09

million on a glorified party. The people of this great city have

0:34:090:34:13

raised a very good point in terms of the reductions that we have had

0:34:130:34:18

to take in terms of funding across the city. It seems to me like a

0:34:180:34:28
0:34:280:34:30

case of one rule for Government and Tristram Hunt, this is your

0:34:300:34:36

constituency. Without bidding for their vote, an irresistible

0:34:360:34:40

temptation, what is your view on the �40 million extra being spent

0:34:400:34:44

on the Olympic opening? I would not have so much of a problem if some

0:34:440:34:48

of that �40 million came to Stoke- on-Trent on May 30th and May 31st

0:34:480:34:53

next year when we have the flame come through the city and we will

0:34:530:34:58

show off to the world. I ask you not to do that! There is a very

0:34:580:35:01

brilliant book called austerity Olympics about the last time the

0:35:010:35:08

Olympics was in London in 1948. It was after World War II. And about

0:35:080:35:13

how they created a brilliant account of Britain, how they ran an

0:35:130:35:18

absolutely brilliant Olympics on a shoestring. They celebrated the

0:35:180:35:21

spirit of Britain very successfully, celebrated the spirit of

0:35:210:35:26

Commonwealth very successfully by cleverly managing it. There is this

0:35:260:35:29

lovely quote, we have no money, therefore we will have to think.

0:35:290:35:33

That is what I wish the Olympics would do, because they are throwing

0:35:330:35:37

money around. You can see it in London and it is a total waste of

0:35:370:35:46

money. I would much rather have a smart, stylish, sophisticated,

0:35:460:35:50

clever Olympics, than the bloated when we are having. Because we will

0:35:500:35:56

not be able to outdo Beijing. This is going to be a different Olympics.

0:35:560:36:00

And why would we want to? Most opening and closing ceremonies are

0:36:000:36:04

deeply over the top and vulgar and excessive. A couple more points

0:36:040:36:14
0:36:140:36:14

from the audience. Have you spoken already? No. Britain's

0:36:140:36:18

international image, more reserved, uptight and modest, is not really

0:36:180:36:22

showing what Britain is, if we are going to start saying we are all

0:36:220:36:28

dancing and high-flying. It just shows the world we are not being

0:36:280:36:31

responsible, especially since 2012 is meant to be the worst financial

0:36:310:36:37

year before we get back to 2008 levels in 2013. But people are

0:36:370:36:44

excited about the Olympics. Who has got Olympic tickets? Who has got

0:36:440:36:53

Olympic tickets? MPs, civil servants... I applied like everyone

0:36:530:36:58

else online and I got the weightlifting. I am very excited.

0:36:580:37:03

We got the wrestling. I went into the bidding for Olympic tickets and

0:37:030:37:08

could not get them. But I am a Londoner Olympics ambassador.

0:37:090:37:15

is going to be another round of tickets, I hope. I am going to be a

0:37:150:37:20

London Olympics ambassador, and I have seen a lot of the plans they

0:37:200:37:28

have made for the Olympic park itself. Personally, I do not think

0:37:290:37:33

40,000 is enough. I think it is way too much. I think it is a vanity

0:37:330:37:39

project. What are you going to do as ambassador? Meeting and greeting

0:37:390:37:45

foreign dignitaries. What, in that uniform with the stripes? No. We

0:37:450:37:54

have not seen the uniforms yet. Have you seen it? No, but I know

0:37:540:38:01

that it involves a trilby. We had better move on. I have lost my

0:38:010:38:09

questions. Here we are. Has Britain become less compassionate towards

0:38:090:38:14

the unemployed? This is a question, I think, based on this report that

0:38:140:38:21

came out this week, which show that whereas in 1983, these questions

0:38:210:38:25

have been asked every year since then, 35% of people thought

0:38:250:38:32

unemployment benefits were too high. But now, 54% of Britain believes

0:38:320:38:35

unemployment benefits are too high and that it discourages the

0:38:350:38:40

unemployed from finding jobs. That was the finding. So have we become

0:38:400:38:44

a less compassionate society towards the unemployed? Claire

0:38:440:38:50

Perry. One of the statistics I thought was very positive this week

0:38:500:38:54

was that giving to charities is at record levels. More people are

0:38:540:38:58

giving to charity than at any other time, so why do not think we are

0:38:580:39:02

having compassion fatigue. What I think we are seeing is that people

0:39:020:39:06

are sick to death of a something for nothing culture, whether it is

0:39:060:39:09

bankers at the top, or benefit scroungers at the bottom, people

0:39:090:39:14

are fed up with that. But if you are on jobseeker's allowance,

0:39:140:39:17

getting �67.50 a week, that is not a huge amount of money. The problem

0:39:170:39:22

is that people get left on benefits for a really long time, not enough

0:39:220:39:26

effort is made to get them back to work. In this constituency,

0:39:260:39:30

unemployment has been going up essentially for years, as the jobs

0:39:300:39:34

are harder and harder to come by it. But I think people are fed up with

0:39:340:39:37

the notion that you can sit on benefits your whole life. We have

0:39:370:39:41

to get people back into work and show that we are doing things in a

0:39:410:39:45

compassionate and a fair way. Mehdi Hasan, people like you attack us

0:39:450:39:49

every week for being somehow heartless and mean. We have

0:39:490:39:54

operated benefits back over 5% so that pensioners will get more in

0:39:540:39:58

their pension pots this year than ever before and unemployed people

0:39:580:40:01

will see benefits go up. Those are people really struggling at the

0:40:010:40:06

moment. Do you think the majority of people in this country,

0:40:060:40:09

according to this survey, are wrong to think that unemployment benefits

0:40:090:40:14

are too high and discourage people from finding jobs? There is a trap

0:40:140:40:19

in the system where if you go on to benefits and you lose your job, the

0:40:190:40:22

system traps you. The welfare state has stopped being a trampoline and

0:40:220:40:26

has started to be a mattress that smothers UN keeps you in there for

0:40:260:40:31

ever. If you're a single mum with kids, it is very difficult to go

0:40:320:40:36

out to work. Right now, you lose childcare benefits very early on in

0:40:360:40:40

the work process. It is difficult to find flexible work. We make it

0:40:400:40:45

really hard for people to get off benefits. I do not think that is

0:40:450:40:49

right at all. I think we spend far too much time subsidising people

0:40:490:40:58

who really do not want to work. That is the first point. All right?

0:40:580:41:03

In this country we have a something for nothing attitude. The disparity

0:41:030:41:07

between those who go out to work and those who stay at work is not

0:41:070:41:16

significant enough. And we have got to why isn't up. -- we have to wise

0:41:160:41:19

up. My view is that too many people are on benefits and they can go out

0:41:190:41:23

to work, and we should encourage them to do so. This malarkey about,

0:41:240:41:27

this is really terrible and we need to soak them into this big sponge

0:41:270:41:32

paid for by the taxpayer, I'm afraid that is nonsense. People who

0:41:320:41:36

genuinely cannot work should be assisted and helped. There are

0:41:360:41:40

plenty of those about. Having said that, there are others who choose

0:41:400:41:45

not to work and we should find them and encourage them to go out to

0:41:450:41:54

work. How many? I have no idea. Your other politician. You tell me.

0:41:540:41:59

I do not think it is so much the six to �7.50 on jobseeker's

0:41:590:42:04

allowance that is the problem, it is the cost of living, the rent of

0:42:040:42:08

�400 or �500 a month when the average wage in this area is

0:42:080:42:13

something like �12,000 a year. We have housing costs spiralling out

0:42:130:42:17

of control because there is not enough for affordable accommodation

0:42:170:42:22

for people. And the housing stock that is empty, about 90% of that is

0:42:220:42:26

privately owned and the Government can do nothing about that. That is

0:42:260:42:30

where the problem needs to be sorted out. What is your reaction

0:42:300:42:33

to the finding that a majority of people think unemployment benefit

0:42:330:42:38

is too high and is stopping people working? I think they do not

0:42:380:42:44

realise. I am actually of the view that if you take your jobseeker's

0:42:440:42:48

allowance and the council tax and your living costs, your rent or

0:42:480:42:54

mortgage, I think everyone should work for a couple or three days a

0:42:540:42:59

week. If you look at �500 a month, plus benefit, plus council tax,

0:42:590:43:04

probably a couple of days a week, it comes to the minimum wage. If

0:43:040:43:06

the Government set up manufacturing tab companies and people could work

0:43:060:43:12

there, get people back into work, but give people some skills as well.

0:43:120:43:16

You are saying people do not want to work. I know loads of people on

0:43:160:43:26
0:43:260:43:28

benefit who want to work but there Why is it that working tax credit

0:43:280:43:36

has been frozen and yet jobseeker's allowance is to be increased by

0:43:360:43:41

5.2%, if you want to encourage people to work? You think there was

0:43:410:43:47

a bad decision. I think you want to make every single move possible in

0:43:470:43:50

terms of the tax and benefit system to make sure people are doing the

0:43:500:43:55

right thing, which is what working tax credits was about. It was about

0:43:550:43:59

supporting those on low wages to go to work and to stay in work, rather

0:43:590:44:03

than having a lifetime on benefits. This is a particular problem with

0:44:030:44:08

generations of workless people. Those who were out of work in the

0:44:080:44:12

minds in the steel industry in the 1980s and were stuck on incapacity

0:44:120:44:15

benefits, and their children and grandchildren have not worked. We

0:44:150:44:20

need all of those Brits back into work. The problem is, as the lady

0:44:200:44:24

suggested at the back, what we do not have at the moment is a growing

0:44:240:44:27

economy for jobs, either in the manufacturing sector all the

0:44:270:44:31

services sector, which will provide an avenue towards that. We need the

0:44:310:44:35

tax and benefit system to work to help people get into work, but we

0:44:350:44:40

also needed jobs. What do you say about the 5.2% being given to those

0:44:400:44:47

on unemployment benefit, that it distorted... I think the system is

0:44:470:44:50

flawed, because what happened was they take one month's inflation

0:44:500:44:55

figure of 5.2% and they apply that for the entirety of benefits for

0:44:550:44:59

the next year. They should take the year-long Abridge and apply that.

0:44:590:45:04

You would have endorsed a lower figure. Yes, I would have endorsed

0:45:040:45:08

a lower figure to make sure it was more competitive to work. But I

0:45:080:45:12

would not have attacked working tax credits. The Chancellor is too

0:45:130:45:22
0:45:230:45:29

generous. My point is more nuanced Our unemployment benefits too high,

0:45:290:45:37

or our wages to low? -- is it that unemployment benefits are too high,

0:45:370:45:42

or is it that wages are too low? I know people who say, why should I

0:45:420:45:45

go to work and lose my benefit for �10 a week more? There is no

0:45:450:45:49

incentive for some people. It is the system that needs overhauling.

0:45:490:45:54

We are told it will be overhauled by successive governments, and it

0:45:540:46:03

never is. Explain more - do people come to you looking for a dog and

0:46:030:46:08

then say, why should I work? Yes, because when I say the wages I can

0:46:080:46:12

offer them, they will lose all their benefit. I can't offer them a

0:46:120:46:16

wage they might want or need, but it is so close to the benefit that

0:46:160:46:19

there is no incentive for them to come, because they lose everything.

0:46:190:46:27

Why should they lose everything? Just when they are keen to go to

0:46:270:46:31

work, and if they get into work, they will advance themselves, but

0:46:310:46:39

they lose everything. So you would lower the benefits are so that work

0:46:390:46:47

pays better? The instead of losing all the benefits, lose some of them.

0:46:470:46:52

I totally agree. All the parties who look at this subject agree that

0:46:520:46:57

there is an incentive issue. So why don't they do something about it?

0:46:570:47:03

Let me come in on a factual point and the original question about

0:47:030:47:09

unemployment benefit. I wonder how many people who were told the

0:47:090:47:16

unemployment benefit of �67.50 then thought it was generous. There is a

0:47:160:47:21

lot of misinformation in this debate. A lot of housing benefit

0:47:210:47:26

goes to people in work. It does not just go to jobless people. It is

0:47:260:47:30

for people in work on low wages who cannot afford to get by. Constance

0:47:300:47:35

thinks people are just sitting on sponges, but she does not know how

0:47:350:47:41

many. I am not a politician. Then you should not make generalisations.

0:47:410:47:50

You are avoiding the question. I am answering the question. We are

0:47:500:47:54

compassionate to unemployed people because there are 2.7 million

0:47:540:47:58

unemployed people in this country, a 17 year high. There are 500

0:47:580:48:02

people chasing every job. People here are saying they should go out

0:48:020:48:12
0:48:120:48:15

and get work. How do you squeeze five people into one job? Simon

0:48:150:48:19

Wilson, I do not know -- Simon Wolfson, I don't know how many

0:48:190:48:23

people you employ, but what is your view of this? I agree with Mehdi.

0:48:230:48:27

In my experience, there are far more people applying for jobs than

0:48:270:48:33

there are jobs to give. Of course, Constance, there are people who

0:48:330:48:39

play the system. And the system played more than any other is

0:48:390:48:42

disability benefits rather than employment benefits. But to say

0:48:420:48:45

that piperade deliberately staying unemployed because they have the

0:48:450:48:51

luxury of �67.50 a week to spend is absurd. It is absolutely absurd and

0:48:510:48:54

it is not in touch with reality. A lot of people are looking for jobs,

0:48:540:48:58

and there are not enough jobs to go round. That will remain the

0:48:580:49:03

situation for quite some time. We need to make sure the government

0:49:030:49:06

routes out the people who are taking advantage of the system,

0:49:060:49:10

because they are taking money away from those who deserve it. Then we

0:49:100:49:13

have to make sure that people who are unemployed are getting enough

0:49:130:49:17

money so that they can feed themselves and look after

0:49:170:49:22

themselves. But don't we also need a proper industrial and economic

0:49:220:49:28

strategy to grow the economy and bringing jobs? But we are talking

0:49:280:49:34

about benefits at the moment. gentleman's point is spot-on. It

0:49:340:49:37

should always be that work pays more than being on benefits, and

0:49:370:49:41

right now we have disincentives where if people go to work, they

0:49:410:49:46

lose too much. It is another politician's promise, but we should

0:49:460:49:50

have more cross-party consensus on this, getting people into work.

0:49:500:49:54

This is what we are planning to do with the universal credit, so that

0:49:540:50:00

work always pays more than being on benefits. I want to hear from

0:50:000:50:06

members of our audience. The woman up there? I was just going to say,

0:50:060:50:10

you say there are no jobs or very few, but there are, it is just that

0:50:100:50:13

you have to look for them and there is no incentive to look for them.

0:50:140:50:21

The minimum wage for a student is �3 or something. A job I used to

0:50:210:50:25

have, because it was a few hours, they would give me small hours, so

0:50:250:50:30

whatever I earned, I would pay in expenses just to get there. So I

0:50:300:50:34

did not see the point in going. the gentleman over there? I do

0:50:340:50:40

believe there are jobs. I manage a company in Stoke-on-Trent, and we

0:50:400:50:44

have doubled the workforce in the last year. But unfortunate leak, a

0:50:440:50:49

lot of people do not stick around. For every four people we take on,

0:50:500:50:54

only one or two remain after six months. These are a young people of

0:50:540:50:58

17 and 18 who should be relishing the opportunity. It is not clear-

0:50:580:51:03

cut. What kind of business are you? A manufacturing company. That is

0:51:030:51:11

part of the cultural legacy of worklessness. You, sir? This is a

0:51:110:51:15

symptom of failing government policy, year on year. Instead of

0:51:150:51:19

quantitative easing and putting billions of pounds into the banks

0:51:190:51:22

for them to save for a rainy day, they should invest in local

0:51:220:51:29

businesses. Like the gentleman at the front said, they should make it

0:51:290:51:34

a more affordable way to increase wages and incentivise people to

0:51:340:51:39

work. Then the circle of prosperity returns. A couple more questions?

0:51:390:51:45

The woman in red? Even if hundreds of jobs were made, it is not fair

0:51:450:51:48

on young people. People at the age of 17 are getting turned down for

0:51:490:51:52

lack of experience. How do you expect young people to gain

0:51:520:51:58

experience if you are not giving us a chance? As well as the cuts in

0:51:580:52:01

the educational maintenance allowance. Would it not be better

0:52:010:52:05

to stop forcing older people to work longer to free up jobs for the

0:52:050:52:15
0:52:150:52:17

younger people? OK. A lot of people have hands up, but I want to move

0:52:170:52:23

on. We have a question from Liz Fletcher. Does the lack of

0:52:230:52:26

recognition in female sporting achievement in the BBC Sports

0:52:260:52:31

personality awards reflect sexist reporting practices in the media?

0:52:310:52:34

This was a big story about the failure of any women to come

0:52:350:52:38

through to the personality awards, but also at a time when people are

0:52:380:52:42

talking about women's role in business and in public life, the

0:52:420:52:45

number of women who appear on Question Time panels, all sorts of

0:52:450:52:53

things. Constance Briscoe? It was regrettable that there were no

0:52:530:52:59

women in that award, but it is typical. Unfortunately, that is

0:52:590:53:05

what we should expect at the moment. It seems to me that you have a role

0:53:050:53:09

in the media if you are, for example, very pretty and of a

0:53:090:53:13

certain age, and it is early in the morning, you get attractive women

0:53:130:53:18

as presenters. As the day rolls on, you get people like me of a certain

0:53:180:53:25

age that they do not want, because we are past our sell-by date.

0:53:250:53:29

pleaded with you to come! We are delighted to have you. And I am

0:53:290:53:35

delightful to be here. delighted. But having said that, if

0:53:350:53:41

you are a bloke of a certain age, you do not have a sell-by date. The

0:53:410:53:51
0:53:510:53:53

I don't know about that! It is a bit like a good bottle of wine,

0:53:530:53:57

they just get better and better with age, whereas if you are a

0:53:570:54:02

woman, you have no chance. The serious point is, it really is

0:54:020:54:06

about time that there were more women, not just in the media, but

0:54:060:54:11

dealing with serious issues during peak times during the day.

0:54:110:54:15

Sometimes I do think I would much prefer to be an elderly white

0:54:150:54:22

gentleman aged around 70, because I would have more opportunities.

0:54:220:54:30

Claire Perry, it was not the BBC who chose these. It was editors of

0:54:300:54:35

sporting newspapers. They at is a bit of an excuse. I have two

0:54:350:54:39

daughters, and one of the hardest things is to get teenage girls to

0:54:390:54:43

go out and exercise and play team sports. Little boys have no problem

0:54:430:54:49

playing football, but getting girls to do anything is difficult. Who

0:54:490:54:55

here knew that we have a world- beating women's cricket team at the

0:54:550:55:01

moment, or that the women's rugby team of world-class? It is never

0:55:010:55:11
0:55:110:55:11

reported. There are amazing women out there. I have seen the women

0:55:110:55:17

competing. One of the most depressing images is the fantastic

0:55:170:55:22

cyclists and swimmers we have have to pose ins Dante underwear shots

0:55:220:55:27

to get any sort of -- they have to pose in scanty underwear shots to

0:55:270:55:32

get any recognition. It is appalling. The BBC should cover the

0:55:320:55:39

fantastic women's sporting events we have out there. Simon, just

0:55:390:55:43

under 14% of FTSE 100 poor positions are held by women. What

0:55:430:55:47

is your take on women's role? You have heard the comment about 73-

0:55:470:55:52

year-old men who can stay in work. One day, you will be 73 and you

0:55:520:55:57

might be in a job. I do not agree with Constanze, because I do not

0:55:570:56:01

think the media is representative of the whole of society. In my

0:56:010:56:05

business, we have a huge number of senior female executives who are

0:56:050:56:10

picked entirely on merit. In the law, you must see that women are

0:56:100:56:14

being picked on merit. But the world is changing. If you look at

0:56:140:56:17

the main board of the company I work for, there is one woman on the

0:56:180:56:24

board. On the layer beneath that of 22 directors, nine are women. That

0:56:240:56:27

reflects that women in the workplace are beginning to be

0:56:270:56:32

treated not just as equals, but are being -- being promoted on the

0:56:320:56:36

basis of merit, which is right and makes good business sense. You

0:56:360:56:40

would be an insane business not to promote the best person, whatever

0:56:400:56:50
0:56:500:56:51

colour, race, creed or sex they are. Why has it taken so long? Unlike

0:56:510:56:56

Constance, I have never wanted to be a 73-year-old white man, but I

0:56:560:57:01

understand the point. No disrespect, David. There are advantages for

0:57:010:57:07

certain sections of the population. Sport, media and business are male

0:57:080:57:15

dominated areas. I did not realise it was 27 publications which chose

0:57:150:57:23

the award nominees, and all of the editors are men. That included Nuts

0:57:230:57:30

and Zoo magazine, well-known sporting publications(!) The

0:57:300:57:34

Manchester Evening News chose Patrick Vieira, who is retired,

0:57:340:57:38

while Rebecca Adlington lost by one vote getting on the shortlist. The

0:57:380:57:43

only way you will change things, which might be unpopular to say, is

0:57:430:57:47

through quotas and positive discrimination. We don't like to

0:57:470:57:51

say it, but that is the only way you get progress, otherwise we have

0:57:510:57:57

these discussions year after year. As I remembered, the last female to

0:57:580:58:01

win Sports Personality of the Year was Paul Zara Phillips, and the

0:58:010:58:05

next day her horse collapsed and she was not able to ride in the

0:58:050:58:09

Olympics. So it might be a blessing if this does not affect our sports

0:58:090:58:13

stars. Our time is up. Apologies to those with hands up. I have already

0:58:130:58:17

being tipped off for overrunning, as is the way with Question Time.

0:58:170:58:27
0:58:270:58:34

This is the last programme of the year. We will be back in the year.

0:58:340:58:44
0:58:440:58:47

David Dimbleby chairs Question Time from Stoke-on-Trent, with panellists including Labour MP Tristram Hunt, Conservative MP Claire Perry, the chief executive of Next Lord Wolfson, Mehdi Hasan of the New Statesman and the author and barrister Constance Briscoe.


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