22/03/2012 Question Time


David Dimbleby chairs a debate from Grimsby. Business secretary Vince Cable, former shadow home secretary David Davis and shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna are on the panel.

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The day after the Budget, who are the winners and who are the losers?


Our audience in tkpwreupls has their -- in Grimsby has their say,


as welcome to Question Time. On our panel here in Grimsby the


Business Secretary Vince Cable, the shadow Business Secretary, Chuka


Umunna, the former shadow Home Secretary, leadership challenger,


David Davis, The Spectator columnist Melissa Kite and the


novelist Marina Lewycka. APPLAUSE.


Now, our first question from Matthew Thompson, please. With more


than one in six six people now aged over 60 isn't the Government right


to ask pensioners to pay their fair share? Chuka Umunna? I think this


was the big surprise in the Budget, wasn't it? So much had been leaked


before, so of course people focus perhaps on those things that the


Government didn't really want people to know about, and the fact


they're taking about �83 a year from 4.4 million pensioners in the


country from next year. I don't think this was the right thing to


do. Particularly when at the same time they're doing this to the


pensioners in this country, they're giving 14,000 millionaires a tax


break in the order of �41,000, I have nothing against people who


earn a lot of money and create wealth and jobs for our country,


but in a context where people are really struggling with squeezed


living standards, we have 2.6 million people out of work, I am


not sure I would have made giving 14,000 millionaire that is tax


break a priority in the current context. APPLAUSE.


Vince Cable, was the argument for freezing the tax allowances of the


pensioners, as Matthew Thompson says, getting them to pay a fair


share, is that what you are after? Not at all, five million pensioners,


the majority of course don't pay tax at all, and most of them are


poor people and the key theme of the Budget was giving them a


substantial increase in the basic state pension, more than I think


they've ever had. Take the last two years of this Government, they will


get I think �10 a week for a single person and that far outweighs the


extra cost to a minority of pensioners of the freezing of the


allowance. Nobody's been asked to pay more tax, it's just the


allowance is being frozen and depending on the rate of inflation,


which is currently low and falling, they will not have to pay any more.


If you have an allowance and people expect the allowance as normal to


go on up with inflation, you suddenly say it's not going to, you


can't then say you are not taking more money off them. You are taking


money off... If there is inflation... Let's go back to the


base quick question. There are elderly people, actually people


sort of late middle age, people of my generation, who do very well


actually, who have good post- retirement income and are asset-


rich and it's right they should pay more. The people who we are worried


about, the people who have been affected by this particular


proposal are people on fairly low incomes who have a small


superanation, for example. They will benefit considerably overall


from the Budget because of the increase in state pension, far


outweigh any losses. Looking to 2012-13, the gains to pensioners as


a whole from improving the state pension is something this


Government's done, it's protected it. Five times more important than


the losses that have been experienced with this group. The


big story in the Budget was about lifting allowances for 20 million


people, low and middle income, that's what was where most of the


money in the Budget's gone, it's something my party fought for and


it will do a great deal to help ordinary people, �220 a year extra


in tax cuts. And will particularly help low paid workers. APPLAUSE.


Marina Lewycka? Pensioners of that generation, they do want to pay


their fair share and so the question is really what is fair?


What is the fair share for for pension stphers. What's


particularly unfair about this tax, this sort of little theft of


people's money is that it actually comes, not from the well-off


pensioners, actually I checked, I am not affected because I earn too


much, it's people who have that little bit extra who are going to


be squeezed by this, they're the people who have worked, saved, done


all the right things, tried to contribute and actually I don't


think it's fair. APPLAUSE. David Davis? I came at this a


slightly different approach, I take the view generally with economic


policy that pensioners are in a unique position, they aren't able


to change much about their circumstances, the rest of us


stpheul work can do something, earn overtime, change the job maybe, but


pensioners can't. I was a little nervous when I heard this proposal


come out, as it were at the end of the Budget. So I had a look at it,


thinking it wouldn't be a good idea. Actually what the numbers show is


that if you take the whole package, not just one piece of it, but the


whole package, the state pension with - this horrible phrase triple


lot, borrowed from Gordon Brown, what that means is you either get


the higher of 2 2.5% or earnings or inflation increase, the highest of


those and you look at that against the freezing of the pension. The


pensioner ends up roughly, the worst off ends up �67 a year better


off, not very much, better off than under Labour policy. So, the answer


is they don't have to take something which is worse than was


reasonable. So I think it's a reasonable policy. It did worry me


when I first heard it because of the issue of pensioners not having


many options but I think it works. OK, up there on the far left.


think the biggest issue for me is that this Budget, unfortunately,


has done very little to address the massive gap in our society which is


very devisive between the average people and the small top end who


earn vast amounts of money, vast multiples of what the average


person earns and that's devisive for society and I think it's


morally indefencible and repug repugnant. We will come on to that


in a moment. The man at the back. am concerned about - the people


talk about the age group we are talking about, people who have


benefited from free university education, tax relief on their


mortgage when they were younger, and NHS when we had one, I think


they can afford to pay a bit back because it's our grandchildren who


will be paying for our mistakes in the future. You are in favour of


what the questioner said? Yeah. Melissa Kite? I agree with the last


speaker, he makes a very good point. I can totally understand why people


are upset about this because it was massively mishandled by George


Osborne. I have heard of rabbits out of hats, but this was a hound


from hell. It was not explained and dropped as a bombshell and as David


says when you actually look at the whole thing together it's not as


bad. But there's been a lot of Labour scaremongering as well,


talking about �60-�200 that earning pensioners with an income are going


to lose. But just to pick up on that point, yes, today's pensioners


have had chances and opportunities that I am afraid a generation


coming up now will never have. They had the free university education,


they had soaring house prices and they had final salary pension


schemes and so on. Now they can help pay? They can pay a little bit.


The point I am trying to make is we have to do something for society as


a whole and to get Britain moving again because this generation of


young people coming up are just not going to have these chances.


will move on in a moment. The woman in white in the back row. To me it


seems just another way of eroding my standard of living in retirement.


I work in the public sector. I was expecting to be out able to retire


at 60. I have been told now that my pension will actually be consumer


price linked, instead of inflation linked. In the past two years -


three years I have been told I can't get my state pension at 60.


It was going to be 63. Now I have I have recently had a letter and told


it's 65 years and three months. I feel the money I am trying to make


up that shortfall now is also being eroded because the amount of


interest I am getting in the bank is almost negative. I just feel


that at the moment I am really quite dreading my retirement. Can I


afford to retire? APPLAUSE. Vince Cable, do you want


to answer that? Well, I do acknowledge that a lot of people


feel squeezed. It has to be seen in the context of the massive crisis


that we have just been through. The country as a whole is actually 10%


worse off than before we had this massive financial crisis. We are


trying get back on to track and share the burden as fairly as


possible. The reason interest rates are very slow basically to stop the


economy collapsing. The last Government brought in low interest


rates, through the Central Bank. We have had to maintain that. It does


make it very hard for small savers, I understand that. It's more


important that we help the economy to recover from the terrible


economic heart attack it suffered because that's what we have been


through. Let's stick with the Budget, but from a different angle.


Shell done Ellis. Does cutting the 50p tax rate to 45p signal the end


of us all being in it together? APPLAUSE. It was introduced by


Labour, but Labour apparently are not prepared to say that they will


bring it back in 2015 if they're re-elected s that right? If there


was a general election tomorrow... There isn't going to be one. And we


won we would reverse it. We will be voting against it when it comes


before the House of Commons shortly. I am not going to write a manifesto


for 2015 now or start to spell out different types of spending


measures. Let me say this... not promise it, if you believe it


should be at 50p which is what your leader said? It's not a spending,


the Government gets the money. You can give it away to pensioners or


poorer people. Do something with it,... There is a balance of tax


and spending measures that you spell out at the time of a general


election before you expect to take Government. Look, the principle


that I think everybody here will agree with, is that when you are


going through tough economic times those with the broadest shoulders


should bear the heaviest burden and this measure, cutting it from 50 to


45 runs counterto that. And that is the problem that I think people


will have with this. I mean, 300,000 people are going to get a


tax break earning six times the average salary at a time when 2.6


million people are out of work, including tragically one million


young people, at a time when people who are in work are facing the


billingest -- biggest squeeze on living standards in a general raeug


and actually -- generation and the average family is very difficult.


Are these really the group of people should be prioritising in


that context? I don't think so. David Davis. You said you were


uneasy about the other change. Were you in favour of this one. This is


an astonishing piece of hypocrisy by the Labour Party. For 13 years,


this idea that those with the broadest shoulders carry the


biggest burden is not new, it's been a part of political life for


my lifetime and for the last 13 years of Labour Government Gordon


Brown first as Chancellor, then as Prime Minister, never thought it


worthwhile moving the rate from 40p, he said in private he thought that


was the level at which you got the most out of the rich. It's the key


point. You got to decide are you just trying to punish the rich or


trying to get the most from them? If you are trying to get the most


from them, then what we learned before with the Geoffrey Howe and


Lawson Budgets, the maximum rate, 60% didn't get the most. When they


cut down to 40, eventually end up double, triple the amount of money


coming from the rich. Why, because they stopped trying to avoid paying


tax, stopped leaving the country, did different things to earn money


and that's what we need to do. We are in an economy now that needs,


in my view, a shock and and awe to get to a growth phase. I have a son


in 20s, his generation getting jobs, real trouble. We have to run the


economy in a most sensible way, not the most political way which we


have had for the last 13 years. George Osborne blamed the revenue


that was coming in from the tax on 50p rate as not being sufficient,


there was a lot of avoidance issues. You we should be putting more


effort into recovering the tax He is doing that. I agree with that.


For example this idea that you could buy an expensive house using


a foreign corporation, to avoid capital gains and other taxes is a


dreadful idea and should have been shut down, and he has shut it down.


That's going to give us three quarters of a billion pounds. Well


worth having. I don't understand how you can say that by lowering


that they won't try to avoid it. They are going to try to avoid it


whatever it is. That's why they are so rich anyway. So the rich will


always avoid it? Yes, always. was a theory that they would stop


avoiding it if you lower the rate. They are certainly avoiding it now.


It is always amusing listening to Labour hearing them say how putting


up taxes it is going to work. It has never worked in the past.


They've tried it at 80 and 60 and every time the revenues fell. We


have to find a way to make the wealthy people stay and pay. And


50p just isn't doing it. It hasn't worked. OK. Well, it hasn't. It


raised �100 million. That isn't going to help. Vince Cable, you've


got form on this. You said some believe if taxes on the wealthy are


cut new revenue will miraculously appear - pull the other one. Is


that still your view? I am officially of the view that at a


time of hardship the wealthiest people in society should pay their


share. So you are against this stkphut I'm not against - - Against


this cut? I'm not against it but it is not my party's policy. This goes


back to David Davis's point. If you want the wealthiest people in


society to pay their share, you've got to find a way of doing it where


they actually pay. This particular gimmick which was dreamt up 57 days


before the end of the last Labour Government, after 13 years, didn't


work. It didn't bring in much money. We are replacing it with much more


effective measures, taxation on very valuable property, greatly


limiting the allowances which the wealthiest people in society can


pay and putting more effort into genuine tax avoidance to catch the


dodgers. This is ludicrous nonsense. The loophole they are clamping down


on in respect of properties worth �2 million or more, there are about


4,000 of those properties sold in the last year, whereas there are


300,000 very reasonably wealthy people who are going to be


benefiting from this measure. This notion that you don't do this out


of envy, that you do it because we have grave issues to deal with. We


have to reduce our debts, and therefore you get those who can


afford to contribute more to contribute a bit more for a period.


It is not true to say it wasn't working. What the Government has


done here by abolishing it, it is going to lead to an upfront cost of


�2.9 billion. No it is not. If it comes to �100 million, predicated


on a massive assumption, and that is that wealthy people will change


their behaviour and suddenly miraculously decide to pay more tax.


That's how you get to the �100 million. It is HMRC who says that


isn't it? The OBR, the Office for Budget Responsibility, said it is


very uncertain, because you can't actually make a proper evaluation.


They've only allowed a year to see what it brings in. When the


Institute for Fiscal Studies has said you should allow this tax to


be in place for a longer period to see how much it can raise. Is it


unreasonable for people on Sykes times the average salary to


contribute a bit more to help out. What happened the last time the


rate was dropped from 60% under Lawson? This isn't a 60p rate drop.


The answer is that the take went un. But hang on just a minute...


APPLAUSE No, you hang on. We've heard your point Chuka. I want to


hear from the audience. I'm an education student so I'm in and out


of school as lot of time, talking to young people. They think they


have got such an unfair deal. And they have. They'll be paying higher


tuition fees. The minimum wage hasn't gone up. Yet at the same


time they watch the Six o'clock News and they see millionaires


getting tax cuts. They feel under pressure to make up the deficit


that they never caused and it is so unfair.


APPLAUSE Marina Lewycka, do you think it will benefit the country


by people coming back and paying the tax they never paid? It is a


bizarre that somehow because people who are obviously in some sense


fiddling the 50% tax are going to suddenly stop fiddling because it


has gone down to 45 % seems odd to me. I don't think people are like


that. APPLAUSE The only way you are going


to do it is the same with seat belts. Bring in a law, a tax


avoidance law. If you tpwhring a tax avoidance law for everybody,


these people will stop avoiding, including Tony Blair by the way,


and stop avoiding the tax that they should be paying. David Davis, do


you think it should be 40p instead of 45p? If it had been me I would


have gone to 40. It could be cut to 40 providing... That's a funny way


of talking. Providing it was replaced with a proper tax on


wealth. What happened to your "mansion tax"? There's a small


mansion tax in the Budget. There isn't going to be a levy on large


mansions which are registered in companies. That's anti-tax


avoidance measure. It is making sure that you actually collect the


tax that the levy exists there already to do. Vince Cable, you


said in the Guardian in the autumn, clearly understood there's a trade-


off, if my colleagues will buy the idea of a "mansion tax" or some


variation of that tax, and I hope they will, we can look at the 50p


rate. If they are not willing to look at it, did 50p rate stays. Why


aren't you quitting this Government? Because there's been a


very good trade-off. APPLAUSE Two things have happened


in this Budget. Instead of having the 50p rate, which brought in very


little money, we now have much more effective taxation of wealth and


very high income. And in addition... The most important part of the


Budget is that �20 -- 20-million plus ordinary taxpayers have got a


substantial tax cut by raising the louns. It is the centrepiece of the


Budget. It is where most of the money has gone. As a consequence of


it, 20 million taxpayers get a reduction of �220. That is what the


budgets is essentially about. It is right also that we tackle extreme


wealth and income and that is what we are doing, in a more effective


way than before. Even that is so telling "extreme wealth". This is


about wealth as a dirty word almost. This Budget was trying to send out


a signal that we are not going to tax success, that we are not going


to hunt down people who've done well. But this is about wealth


creation as well. APPLAUSE OK. Surely Labour should


celebrate the fact that the Chancellor, a man with great


integrity, has had the moral courage to lift people out of


poverty by increasing the tax threshold to �9,000 a year. So they


should be celebrating what George Osborne has done. You Sir?


members of the BBC over �50,000 a year have avoided paying tax. It


seems everybody is able to avoid tax if you have the right money.


Where did you get that from? It is on the web and it is from the


information Act. You are not one of them! No. LAUGHTER


I'm not a member of the BBC. I just work for them. That is a


very narrow answer David. That was a politician's answer.


interesting thing is if you look at France for example, one of their


left-wing candidates is looking at introducing a supertax, 65-75 %.


They do believe that those who can afford more money pay the biggest


load. Warren Buffett said he wanted to pay more tax. What this Budget


is actually done is rewarded the frontbench team, most of which are


million airs and allowed them the skip more tax. We need to be


looking at those who can't afford it and making sure that they don't


have to suffer. More needs to be done. It is absolutely ridiculous.


APPLAUSE Just before we leave the point, is


your argument to do with encouraging enterprise or cutting


tax. Both are relevant, if it encourages enterprise that's good,


but the primary objective of the treatment of the tax at the top was


that if 50p rate did not raise very much money and there are much


better, more sensible ways of taxing wealth and very high income.


Let's move on the a different subject. Holly Brown. Why did the


British woman kidnapped in Somalia have to finance her own freedom?


Why did the Government not do more? Tebbutt theeb was released


yesterday. Apparently -- Judith Tebbutt was released yesterday.


Apparently it was reported that her family raised the money. Clearly


the Government couldn't do more. If they did pay the ransom more people


would be kidnapped. That is an agonising position to be in. All I


can say is I totally understand why they did absolutely everything they


could to pay it themselves. And I would have done the same. I would


have done the same knowing that probably by doing that I had stored


up future kidnaps. That just is an agonising position.


APPLAUSE David Davis. Ransoms are a bad idea


generally. I ran a hostage rescue operation in the '90s and we spent


a great deal of time trying to prevent the family of the victim


paying a ransom precisely because it would encourage, it was in


Colombia, it would encourage more people to be kidnapped. There were


75 Americans held at that time in Colombia. It was a trade. We


resolved it militarily. I'm afraid I feel great pain, agony really,


for the families involved in this, but when you pay ransom you get one


person back and hold out the prospect of another ten being


kidnapped later. I'm afraid it is the wrong way to do it. The only


answer to kidnap is to rescue the people, get them back, using


military force if necessary. Using negotiation if you can. Never pay


ransoms. APPLAUSE


The Government, I think this is correct, makes it a criminal


offence to pay terrorists a ransom. In other words if it had been Al-


Qaeda or alshe bab who had been proven to have held Mrs Judith


Tebbutt the Foreign Office could have banned the payment. Do you


think they should extend that to say no ransoms under any


circumstances should be paid? think they should. Criminally


prosecute the family? No, I can talk from my example. We just made


it difficult for it to be paid. this when you are in the SAS?


was in the Foreign Office! LAUGHTER The simple truth was we could


resolve it another way, by rescue. But I do think it is problematic.


It is impossible really for the parents or relatives or even


friends of the individuals who've been kidnapped. For them it is an


impossible circumstances. The Government really has to take a


hard line on it. Surely the point that needs to be considered is that


people need to take more responsibility for where they go.


It is not like people don't know the situation near Somalia and they


should take care not to go into ar area that's a hotbed of pirate


activity and then expect the Government to go there if you get


kidnapped. APPLAUSE It is fair to say there


had been no on-shore kidnaps from Kenya where this happened. Chuka


Umunna. I'm part Nigerian and I hope to go back to Nigeria soon. It


is not always seen necessarily as the safest place. There are


kidnappings that happen there. We had a tragic incident where a


couple of lives were lost in a rescue attempt in Nigeria. Does


that mean because of what you have said that I shouldn't seek to go


and see my family over there because of the risk involved?


do you think about the issue? think the Government has to take a


hard line on it. Notwithstanding that, I would say that I wouldn't


necessarily encourage people to do it but if a member of my family


were in that situation I'm damned sure I would try to find the


resources necessary to try to free them. It is not something that I


would encourage,s that would You make a distinction between what


you would do and society as a whole? If the principle is not to


do it and if it happened would you do it, which many people would.


Well, there is a question as to whether Government makes the


payment or the family should. I suppose I just think it will be


disingenuous to sit here and give a lie and pretend actually if it


happened in my family, the emotion of it and the attachment wouldn't


overcome you. It would. There was a case of the Chandlers, there was a


ransom paid and who knows that didn't encourage this operation.


agree with that. Although I agree with David's point of view, I think


if all avenues have been exhausted human life is more important than


money. So, if everything has been exhausted, every single option, you


can't just leave someone there to be killed. I do agree with what you


say. Would you pay the ransom? every avenue has been exhausted.


Human shraoeuf life -- life is more important than money. You can't put


a value on it. Unfortunately, it's not just the problem of human life


or money. It's a problem of human life now, as against the


possibility more human lives in the future. That's what makes it so


difficult. It makes - these things are terrifying because there is no


right answer and we become aware of how vulnerable we are. Vince Cable.


The distinction should be made between the role of the Government


and the individual, it's a very important one actually. I don't


think we can possibly say that as a matter of Government policy we will


pay up ransom. Kidnapping would just go completely out of control


and it would be a massive incentive for people to do it. But in an


individual circumstance, particularly a very tragic one like


this, I think the husband was killed in the first raid, and the


family, this is what they want to do. I don't think we can proheub


proheub -- prohibit them. In the case of terrorist organisations we


have to be very careful and payment to terrorist organisations is a


crime, I think if an individual family is caught up with a criminal


gang like that, one has to understand their situation and


their pressures and certainly it's not - I don't think it's our job to


stop them doing it. Pretending to take money, and getting the


situation where you are in contact with these people and then...


Deceiving them? That won't work a second time around. The person at


the back. Given comments that have been made what does this say about


our Government? We have had our foreign Minister saying that


Somalia and Sudan are failed states, we have had the pirating going on


in the seas. What action should our offices be taking in respect of the


diplomatic mission and the aid we give these countries in order to


ensure that their people don't do this to us? A brief answer, David


Davis. What should we do? There is a limit to what you can do. Somalia


is an enormous place and it's been in turmoil for, I can't remember


how many decades now, but certainly a couple of decades. You cannot go


into every lawless part of the world and pacify them, otherwise we


end up with a series of other problems. You just have to respond


to the circumstance when it arises. In my view, we should respond


forcefully, those countries that have responded forcefully have been


effective. When we responded forcefully in Columbia there were


no more Brits kidnapped for a significant time afterwards. That's


all you can do. Do you think that was considered by this Government?


I am sure they would have considered it, yes. But rejected?


Well, there's a practical issue, whether you can find them. Whether


you know where they are. Whether it's safe. You have got the


Nigerian circumstance, we went in and the two hostages died in the


course of the raid. You have to take all this on board and make a


judgment accordingly. We will move on to another question, but if you


want to join in the debate, you can on Twitter, or look at Ceefax to


see what others are saying. Georgeina Harris and the next


question. Should teachers in Grimsby be paid less for doing the


same job as their counterparts in the south of England? APPLAUSE.


This goes to the heart of what the Chancellor announced, that the


Government is looking to see if public sector pay can be made more


responsive to local pay. In other words, if public sector pay should


be locally negotiated. Chuka Umunna, you wanted local benefits made


different, region by region. Do you think that these teachers, for


instance, in Grimsby should be paid less because living costs in


Grimsby are less? Well, I mean perhaps if I just read out a quote


from a well known cabinet Minister it would cause all kinds of


problems if you had different shal pay within the public sector, would


you have people looking for promotion in one part of the


country and not working to get... was looking for your opinion, not


Vince Cable's. I happen to agree with Vince on this one. All right.


Vince. We certainly have to be very careful T may be actually there is


an argument for having higher teachers' pay in Grimsby if there


is a shortage of teachers in Grimsby. APPLAUSE.


That is the common sense point. What the Government's looking at, I


just want to stress this is a very preliminary look, this is not


imposing a policy. It's that there are one or two models already in


the court service, the last Labour Government introduced, where pay is


set locally, reflecting local conditions and it could be there is


a shortage of staff, that housing costs differ from one place to


another, and there is an argument for extending that. But I - for the


reasons that Chuka Umunna has quoted, I think imposing regional


variations in pay would be completely wrong and it wouldn't


work. You have just said that if there were a shortage of teachers


in Grimsby there might be an argument for paying more. Allowing


flexibility. Are you suggesting there should be a regional


marketplace for nurses and teachers where you would say in Liverpool we


have a shortage? Cow allow more variation -- you could avow more


Var vasion. - be - variation. In London, you have London weighting


for example. We don't want to be in a position where in relatively low


income parts of the country pay is then depressed and that would be


wrong and inappropriate. But there may be areas where the shortage of


labour in some areas, housing costs vary enormously, let's have a bit


more flexibility in the system as we have already seen in one or two


areas like the court service. quoted him, do you agree with him?


He's being rather contradictory, in the one sense he... Shouldn't


imposing. I am confused by the message that he is giving. It's


also at Var kwrepbts with what other Ministers are saying. David


Davis. I am sitting here thinking that you are saying this and as we


heard Labour introduced this exact thing for the court service. They


also changed quite dramatically the London weighting for the police in


the last - let me finish the point. I don't want to pick a row. The


simple problem we have here is that when a part of the country has high


unemployment the Government quite properly is prone to move public


sector work there, it happened in the north-east of England where my


family come from and other parts and Wales and other parts of the


country. Then what happens, of course, in Wales the people doing


exactly the same job in the public sector end up being paid 18, 20%


more than in the private sector. It then becomes really difficult for


anybody to start a company in that part of the world because they


can't get the staff. So have you the unemployment gets worse. We


have to solve this problem. We haven't decided exactly how to do


it but we will look at these options, it may be different for


teachers and nurses and other administerive staff. Wherever there


is high unemployment there are low private sector wages, relatively.


Not always, - naturally, the north- east of England where my family


came from, huge industrial tradition, huge tradition of energy


and enterprise there in the past. What would normally have happened


is that because because -- labour is cheap people have reinvested


there, it didn't happen because of the effect of large public sector


employment. So we have to find a solution. We can't just live with


long-term unemployment in some parts of the country. If you cut -


the question, if you cut the pay of teachers in Grimsby are you saying


that would help the private sector? What I was saying, David, is that


you probably have a different answer for teachers, where there is


more of argument for national scale than other general skills.


woman in the front row. Is it a a coincidence the Conservative


Government are looking at legislation or changing the


bargaining power of teachers that would undermine the power of


teaching unions? APPLAUSE. Marina Lewycka, you have been in the


teaching profession, what do you make of that point? Well, on the


point of regional pay, because what I think is that in places like


Grimsby or Sheffield where I live, the public sector, including


teachers, form a sort of - possibly a disproportionally large part of


the workforce and the fact that teachers' wages are higher than the


average wage actually raises the overall income of the community and


having that money coming into the community means that local


businesses, shops can stay open that would shut otherwise, you know,


cafes and restaurants stay open. There's a little bit more spending


power in the community. If you actually lower the public sector


wages then I don't think it creates, there's no testified creates jobs


in the private sector t drags down the whole economy. The woman in the


back row. I agree that the cost of living here is cheaper than it


would be in the south, but there is other issues other than the cost of


living. If we want to buy alcohol, for instance, it's a long way to go


down to the channel to cross and obviously more expensive for us,


also to go on holiday, regional airports charge more than they do


in the south. It wouldn't be fair in your view? No, I don't think


would be. The woman in the third row. I think you want to make sure


that you get decent teachers across the country. We all train the same


way. We go into the profession because we are keen and want to


make sure our children are well educated and to start to vary the


pay o could actually affect the amount of people who go into the


profession and cause social economic problems because you get


certain people moving to certain areas to do the jobs and it would


mean that certain areas would lose out and maybe the teaching in that


area would become worse as a result. Vince Cable, can you answer that


point, would you like to see teachers taken out of this study


that the Government is doing? mean this already happens. If there


are scarcity subjects, for example, and teachers are paid more. The


idea that there may be parts of the country, I don't know what the


position is like in Grimsby, where there may be a shortage of teachers,


surely the pay system should reflect that in some degree. Does


it? I don't know the position in Grimsby, but if it is, surely there


is some common sense in allowing local conditions to reflect that.


This does point out the differences between the life in the public and


private sector. If you work in the private sector it's a sort of given


that if you want to earn big wages you gravitate towards the areas


where the big wages are being paid. I grew up in the Midlands and a lot


of us decided that we had to go to London to earn more money. That


just is life in the private sector. And part of me thinks well, you


know, it's protecting people in the public sector from that is sort of


not living in the real world. But, I do think there are precious few


perks at the minute to working in the public sector and therefore if


this is one of them and if the security of knowing that wherever


you work you will be paid a certain rate keeps good teachers and so on


in the profession, then I think it's probably better to keep it


that way. All right. The woman there. I just think


regional variation in pay just creates more of a north-south


divide. Also, particularly for say young graduates or whatever, if


they settle in one part of the country they become trapped and


can't afford to move for that very reason, because there's more of a


divide throughout the country. Let's go on to another question.


George Wilson, please. Is this year a good time for the UK to consider


becoming a republic? Dare I ask your view? Well, I will


give you my view, I think the Queen's doing a pretty good job. I


have been perturned for a long time about the family. They seem to be


improving a bit and when you consider the alternative, God help


us, we might have President Blair or President Prescott.


OK. So the question Marina Lewycka, is this year, the Queen's Jubilee


year, a good time for the UK to consider becoming a republic?


this year I think. The Queen's doing a pretty good job. In a way,


when you think of all the things she has to put up with and all the


travelling around, I feel a bit sorry for her. She has to put up


with living with Prince Philip, has too be smiling all the time when


she feels cross about something. Definitely not this year. Possibly


when the Queen's ready to retire or passes away, that might be the time


to consider becoming a republic. Would you like Britain to be a


republic? Um... Yes. APPLAUSE


Melissa Kite? I think the Queen is such terrific value for money I


can't think of anything else that is as good value as the Queen...


APPLAUSE I was having this argument... You don't get much for


our money nowadays, but I was having this argument the other day.


I looked it up at the time on my BlackBerry and it was something


like 50p a year per person. What do we get for that? This is fantastic.


The tourists that come. The fact that every day outside Buckingham


Palace, crowds are waiting to see the Changing of the Guard. It is


fantastic value for money. So it is commercial judgment for you whether


we are a republic or a monarchy? is a bit of heart as well as head


for me. I do think even if you don't like the idea of a monarchy


you have to see that gives us such a fabulous identity. And it makes


us a bit special and a magnet for tourists. I think the general


public have had enough of politicians. There are far too many


of them around... APPLAUSE And the last thing we want


are more failed politicians as head of state. Far better to have


someone that considers duty before their own personal advancement.


APPLAUSE Do you want monarch cal rule really? You could say that.


You would like the Queen to rule rather than the politicians?


not really. You don't quite go that far. Her current role is quite


satisfactory as far as I'm concerned. What about the next


generation coming along, did you feel the same about them? That's


what a monarchy system is all about. You don't elect then. The man with


the beard, not, "In a beard" that makes it sounds like you have put


it on for the evening. I wear it. I agree the Queen is good value for


money. I come from experience of working abroad and travelling a lot.


What I hear about is a lot of time people drinking abroad and fighting


abroad, but whenever they mention the Queen it is always about what a


great country wefrplt it encourages growth and tourism. It is all-round


value for money, it is a great investment. Vince Cable. I'm not a


republican and I think this old saying of the it ain't broke, don't


fix it. The monarchy works perfectly well. It performs, the


Queen admishly performs the head of state, is popular, and is respected


overseas. Although I am a politician I rather agree with if


gentleman at the back - we should stick with what we are supposed the


do and throw monarch to do her job, which she does very well. Chuka


Umunna. I met the Queen for the first time this week. What has that


got to do with it? I tweeted that I think she does a superb job. I


describe myself as a default monarchist. I don't agree with the


hereditary principle but I can't think of what is better to put in


its place. If you doingle the Queen, our Queen comes up. She is a


fantastic asset and puts us on the map. The President of Germany


stepped down the other day. I don't even know whether a new one has


been appointed. I doubt anybody knows the name of the last German


President. But everybody knows the name of our Queen. I'm with the


rest of the panel on this. We haven't heard from you yet David.


Maybe you are a shock republican. I'm smiling at the idea of being


asked about the hereditary principle by a Dimbleby!


APPLAUSE We don't go back so far. Not yet. I travelled up on the


train with El Presidene and his ambitions only extent to the police


at the moment. But that's bad enough. The best comment came from


Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. He once said that one of the things


that keeps Britain from becoming a dictatorship is having to kneel


before the Queen once a week and explain your job to her. That is a


really wise insight. We are fabulously lucky in this country


that the most powerful people have to bend their knee to somebody else.


That's what keeps us as civilised as wefrplt so long may she reign.


APPLAUSE Are there any republicans in our


Grimsby audience? You are? We've talked about how great value for


money the Queen is, but I'm wondering whether Prince Charles


will have that same sort of international love drawn to him. I


agree with Melissa Kite that perhaps this year is not the -- I


agree with Marina Lewycka that perhaps this year is not the year.


Rob Connor. Is David Cameron's idea to private as a vast swathe of our


road network not just another excuse to fleece the already put


upon motorist? APPLAUSE This is a complex idea


that not everybody understood except people who smelt a rat. The


Treasury is going to carry out a feasibility study of new ownership


and financing models for the road system in England, where private


contractors would take over the roads and get a share of the road


taxes. I'm lost. I'm not sure I can help you! There is an argument for


getting private funding and private enterprise into the highways system.


There are, I don't know how many people in the audience have used


the M6 toll. It is an efficient, reasonably cheap addition to the


motorway system that wouldn't have been funded simply with taxpayers'


money. If there are big, important roads that need to be wilt, --


built, there is an argument for getting it done that way. If people


have travelled in France, and that is a way of improving the network


and introducing a toll system. I know people in this part of the


world have experience of the Humber Bridge. It has aroused strong


feelings because of the charges. But big infrastructure like that in


future are not likely to come from public funding. We have to be


pragmatic about it. I agree with the original intervention that we


should not be fleecing the motorist that. Shouldn't be the motivation.


If the infrastructure is going to be improved it is probably going to


require private capital. Chuka Umunna, are you in favour of this


study? Would Labour back trunk roads and motorways being given to


private contractors? I think we are all a bit lost because we don't


know the details. Apparently the Prime Minister said it would apply


to new roads and trunk roads but it seems new roads would include an


extra lane on an existing road. I do think where people are finding


rising living costs, a VAT hike and credits being taken away, this is


probably not a welcome measure. Wasn't it daerblgs your Chancellor,


who recommended -- wasn't it Alistair Darling, your Chancellor,


who recommended road charging? need to see the details. It is also


a question of timing as well. I think Alistair Darling was in


charge of the transport department some time ago when the economic


climate was perhaps a bit different. People often, as Vince Cable did,


talk about the French system. But the issue there is that alongside


the toll roads is an excellent national road system that you can


use at the same time. You don't think we have that? No, we are too


crowded for that to happen. Melissa Kite. Can someone please explain to


me how there is not enough money that's been taken from the motorist


to pay for our roads? APPLAUSE Perhaps your neighbour on


your right confirm Fuel prices, vehicle exice duty. Am I did only


one to notice ta our roads are booby-trapped nowadays. You can't


go in your car and go outing with being fined for something. Speeding.


Speeding, doing 31 in a 30, there's speed guns everywhere, cameras,


CCTV. You can't stop anywhere because it is a bus lane or a taxi


pull-up. You get to the point where you think, I can't bear to get in


my car. It is an assault course, like the Krypton factor. I feel


that there must be money in there somewhere. The they use the money,


taken from us in these charges, the stealth taxes that are already


being imposed on us, they must be able to pay for roads. Perhaps the


option is we offer the Chancellor a deal. We'll have road tolling but


halve the price of petrol. That would do. I'm going to beg to


differ on this. I think that actually unfortunately we need in


the long term to be working towards a situation where we have fewer


cars on the roads, rather than just carrying on building roads. The


truth is that there'll never be enough roads to mop up all the cars


that want to be on them. We need a more radical way of organising our


transport system. You would charge more for if fuel and you want cars


off the road? We have to look hard at other forms of transport, to


make them cheaper, accessible, nicer, quicker. I'm with Melissa, I


think the motorists already pay enough. I can't see that giving a


private company an extra slice of money out of everything we pay is


going to make things better. But I don't think it is going to solve


the problem. We have to stop. You had the intriguing idea of halving


the price of petrol and using it on the roads. Is that a serious


question. You think the motorist is fleessed, yes or no? Yes. Thank you


David. APPLAUSE You've got me out of a


hole and got warm applause from the hole and got warm applause from the


audience. We are going to be in Portsmouth next week. We are off


air during the Easter recess. We're back in Leeds on 19th April. It is


Portsmouth next Thursday and Leeds on 19th April. If you want to join


the audience, the number is on the screen.


David Dimbleby chairs a debate from Grimsby on the big stories of the week. The panel includes business secretary Vince Cable, former shadow home secretary David Davis and shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna.

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