21/06/2012 Question Time


Joining David Dimbleby in West Bromwich are Ken Clarke, Andy Burnham, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, economist Ruth Lea and Midlands businesswoman of the year Julie White.

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We are in West Bromwich tonight, and welcome to Question Time. On


the panel, the Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, the Shadow Health


Secretary, Andy Burnham, the general secretary of Britain's


biggest trade union, then McCluskey, the economist Ruth Lea, and the


Midlands businesswoman of the year, who runs a company that uses


diamond drills to break-up concrete, You can use your diamond drills on


the members of the panel! Let's have our first question.


celebrities who avoid paying tax the moral equivalent of benefit


cheats? That is a quote from Danny Alexander of the Liberal Democrats


today about Jimmy Carr and his tax affairs. Ken Clarke, are they the


moral equivalent of benefit cheats? Well, there is a difference between


people who cheat legally and people who cheat illegally. Presumably if


somebody has not broken the law, they are not guilty of any criminal


offence. But I think the public probably disapprove of wealthy


people who find ingenious ways with the help of brilliant accountants


of really avoiding paying any tax, with the same sort of disapproval


that they disapprove of people who fiddle their benefits. The question


is, whether it is a fedora crime. I think at the present time, it is


not surprising that people get angry when they discover somebody


who earns a very large amount of money can get away with paying


hardly any tax. Was it right of the Prime Minister to single out Jimmy


Carr and to say that his behaviour was quite frankly morally wrong? Is


it the business of the Prime Minister to give views about


individual citizens? Adair a very large number of people agreed with


the Prime Minister. -- I'd bet at large number of people. But was he


right? He was singled out by the press. If the Prime Minister had


named some well-known person out of the blue and gone into his tax


affairs, no Prime Minister would do that, but it was suddenly all over


the press. There was no denying that he had paid next to no


taxation on a large income, so I think the Prime Minister's reaction


was probably shared by a very large majority of the British public.


When Lord Ashcroft's tax affairs were up for discussion in 3rd


December years ago, David Cameron said, I am not possible for


responsible for everybody's tax payments. It is a matter between


them and the Revenue. I do not think he was saying he was


responsible. He is the Prime Minister of a Government that has


put a great deal of effort into tackling Tax abuse, which has gone


on for years. We have brilliant accountants who try to keep one


foot ahead of the Treasury. The Revenue's spend their entire time


trying to block loopholes. George has finally managed to get, in the


Finance Bill, which he has announced and we will do it, a


general anti- abuse provision, which we have never been able to


persuade Parliament to contemplate before. It will be easier to react


when tax things are designed plainly for the purpose of getting


away from the intention, the spirit of the bill, the bill passed by


Parliament and put into the law. Obviously we must be more effective


in dealing with tax abuse. We are putting in more effort than people


have put into it for many years. Andy Burnham. Schemes like this are


unacceptable and I am glad Jimmy Carr has recognised his mistake.


But I think politicians need to tread carefully before commenting


on individual's tax affairs. After all, it is our primary


responsibility to ensure there are fair rules in place and loopholes


are closed down. Probably all politicians should look at this and


say, we should have done more. Before we rush after individuals we


should get the tax rules in order. There are two things I would say


about Mr Cameron. He has opened a can of worms for himself. The


question I would ask, what is the difference between Jimmy Carr and


Lord Ashcroft, other than that one is a major Tory donor who


bankrolled the last Tory party election campaign? The second thing


I would say is that he is in absolutely no position to dish out


lessons on tax morality when he had a Budget just a few months ago that


handed out �14,000 tax breaks to millionairess, at the same time as


taking working tax credit of And taking benefits of disabled


people. Where is the morality in that? The man in the back row.


think time would be better spent on the abuses of large corporations


and the amounts of money, the vast amounts of money they get away


without paying, rather than individuals, which is insignificant


in comparison. Ruth Lea. Going back to Jimmy Carr, I think he was so


picked out because he was mocking a Barclay's Bank scheme for a 1% tax


scam, and lo and behold, he was doing exactly the same thing. So I


think there is a smell of hypocrisy round here as far as he is


concerned. He has lost an awful lot of street cred, I would have


thought, with his audience, and no wonder he has backtracked quickly.


But I would certainly say there is still obviously quite a lot of tax


avoidance. There is no question about this. Ken Clarke has


mentioned the anti-avoidance rule that George Osborne introduced in


the Budget and I say, good luck to the Revenue to try and track this


stuff down him, because the Revenue must be losing up to �5 billion


each year, and that is your money and my money. I am sure that under


those circumstances we wish the Revenue all the best in tracking


these people down. But is it morally wrong to use a tax


avoidance scheme that is legal because the Treasury has not got


around to banning it? It is difficult because part of me says,


yes, it is morally wrong. I pay more than my share of taxes and


ironically the people who pay 50% of tax, they pay a lot of tax as


well. How do you pay more than your share? You are very sharp tonight,


David! I just think it was the turn of phrase. I was feeling slightly


sorry for myself. Put it this way, I pay my share of tax. I do think


Jimmy Carr and everybody else who is avoiding tax through some clever


scheme because of their accountants, I think they should be paying their


tax as well. The man in the third row. Up in areas of deprivation,


like here in Sandwell, and other parts, it is galling that people


like Jimmy Carr, and people there who do not pay their taxes, we have


to hear stories of people spending time and effort avoiding paying


taxes. It is calling. -- it is a galling thing. I think it is


morally reprehensible and the Prime Minister and the Government were


right to expose and respond to the Times newspaper's article. But


unfortunately there is a big whiff of hypocrisy. Our colleague at the


back made the point about corporate tax avoidance. We have been saying


for years that tax avoidance is a serious problem. Independent fiscal


bodies tell us that the Treasury loses up to �40 billion a year


through tax avoidance. �40 billion. That is absolutely staggering. The


Government, although they are making these noises in response to


the type of investigative journalism that we have seen in the


Times, they are absolute -- actually being hypocritical. Ken


Clarke says that more effort is being put into closing these


loopholes and collecting tax. That is absolute nonsense. Her Majesty's


Revenue and Customs are currently about to lose a third -- a further


10,000 jobs, the very people who we are looking to to collect the tax.


Tax compliance officers actually collect �630,000 a year on average.


And his Government is about to make them redundant. So it is hypocrisy


for the Government to say one thing, pass things through Parliament, but


with no effort whatsoever to tackle what is an absolute disgrace, and


that is the super rich and the corporate giants who do not pay tax.


We have got chief executive officers of major companies who pay


less tax than the cleaners who actually clean their buildings.


It's a disgrace! But if what these people are doing


is illegal, it does not matter how many tax inspectors you have. They


will say, it was legal. It is the law that needs changing. Yes,


absolutely. Tax avoidance is legal. Not tax evasion. Heaven knows how


much we lose their. Tax avoidance is a serious problem and we need a


Government that has the courage to close the loopholes. And we need


staff to collect it and not be made redundant. That is why members will


be on strike on Monday, 50,000 of them, to defend their jobs and


bring to the public's attention that we are being ripped off on


this tax avoidance. Julie White. Back to Jimmy Carr. As you said,


was it legal? Yes, he was following every rule in the book. Is it moral,


No, it was not. He has withdrawn it, hasn't he. As you said, I think


David Cameron has opened up a huge can of worms. Because K2 is not the


only scheme out there. And also, with Jimmy Carr, there are another


1000 people in there. How many Tory backbenchers, how many people that


support David Cameron will come out of the woodwork? I do not think we


have heard the last of this, I can tell you that. The other thing is,


as you said, Jimmy Carr has withdrawn and said he will be a


good boy from now on. Was that because David Cameron said so, or


was it Twitter? There's a question to ask their. You are a business


woman. Don't you do your best to keep to the lowest level of tax


that your business pays? Do you not take advice from accountants?


take advice. It would be great if we could get 1%, but we do not. We


take advice. We try to take tax breaks if we can, but not down to


as low as 1%. That is like nothing. The man in the front. The only


reason Jimmy Carr is upset is because he has been found out.


why was he pointed out first? I know that it was leaked. I would


hate to have anything leaked about myself. Why was he pointed out?


man in the second row from the back. Pre-Jimmy Carr has apologised. Is


If he had not been exposed, perhaps he would still be doing what he is


doing. You have to hope it is genuine and he is reflecting on


some of the reaction. I want to come back to the point that the


gentleman made. It seems there is an elite that are living by


different rules to the rest of us. They have not been watching what is


going on in the last couple of years. They are paying accountants


to take them out of tax. We read that top pay rose by 12% last year.


My constituents would find that absolutely unacceptable. Why are


they still able to pay themselves well above the odds, well above


what everybody else is getting? The statement that we are all in it


together rings more and more hollow every day that goes by. The


Government came forward with top pay proposals this week. Watered


down, completely ineffectual and nothing like what Vince Cable


originally promised. This discussion has taken a peculiar


turn. Nobody has said that something should not be done about


tax abuse. Everybody has been saying that for as long as I can


remember. The idea that recruiting a few 1000 tax inspectors will


solve it is simplistic. The idea that some party political point,


when we succeeded a government that did not trouble the super rich for


the slightest in the 13 years it was in power, is faintly ridiculous.


It is, I'm afraid, question of lawyers, of tax law. It is in the


Budget. Before there was any fuss or any Raul, there has been a


significant step, a genic -- a general anti- abuse provision. It


means that the law does not have to in detail. If you contradict what


Parliament intended, the Revenue will get the money. We have to pass


it, and I am sure the Labour Party will not a pose. And we have to


then enforce it. It is tricky. They are clever, these accountants. But


we are putting effort into it. But these are knockabout. So we are


making. What is the difference between Jimmy Carr and Sir Philip


Green? Philip Green who owns Top Shop should have paid �285 million


worth of tax last year to the Treasury to look after our schools


and our roads. How much did they pay? Nothing. Why? Because his wife


owns the company, who happens to be domiciled in Monaco. No tax. What


did the Prime Minister do? Did he castigates Philip Green? No, he


invited him in to advise the Government. There is a whiff of


hypocrisy. Action speaks louder This idea of which individuals we


like and which we don't is populist nonsense. What's morally wrong,


even when it's legal, is a really aggresive tax scheme which is


plainly using something for tax- evasion purposes for which it


wasn't dined. These fiddles around Gordon Brown's film grants when the


people putting their money into it couldn't care less about films or


where they are made are the ones that will get strict tures. This


will probably turn out to be what this comedian's contributions went


into. If you put a money into a charitable trust and put it into


Romania you save an awful lot of tax. Don't encourage people. You're


costing the Treasury billions. he say Romania? The woman in the


third row in. I agree with Ken, we should stop focusing on individuals


and all the opportunities they have to illegally avoid tax, not if it


was Jimmy Carr, Gary Barlow, not the people but the opportunities


that exist for them to do what they do. OK. The woman in the fourth row


in the back. I think what's morally wrong is that the people who are


the lowest paid in this country are paying the highest proportion of


tax and are not able to find ways of employing people to fiddle their


tax. OK. I will take one more point. The man in orange. If MPs are the


most notorious public figures for tax evasion how is the public


supposed to trust them to sort this out? Why do you think they are?


They are always in the news for tax evasion aren't they? They are not


setting a great example are they? APPLAUSE We had better move on, we


have a lot of questions tonight. If have a lot of questions tonight. If


you are tweeting tonight and it is clearly more powerful tonight than


the television or anything else. We welcome tweets. If you prefer,


you can still text us 83981 but that apparently is dying a death


quite soon. Our next question is quite soon. Our next question is


from Craig hill please. Should the UK scrap GCSEs and return to O-


level-style exams? This would be England wouldn't it, because


Scotland and Wales are different. Michael Gove announced this


apparently today, somewhat to the surprise we are told of people in


Cabinet who didn't know it was coming up. Andy Burnham? When I was


Shadow Education Secretary I remember saying that coalition


education policy reminded me of a film Back To The Future that.


Starred a man called Michael who was trapped in the 1950s that.


Begins to provide a good summary of this current Secretary of State.


Firstly his policies are backward- looking. He brought forward an


English baulk lariat a year or so ago which found -- baccalaureate a


year or so ago which found room for Hebrew but not England ICT. The


second thing... Don't read your notes. He focuses on Oxbridge and


the top 30% to the detriment of the 70%. APPLAUSE I think this policy


would cement that. It would be divisive, it would create winners


and losers at a young age and make some kids second class citizens. I


cannot accept that some kids are second class citizens at 13 or 14.


It speaks volumes that this was leaked on a day when people were


taking their GCSEs. APPLAUSE I you just would say this to broaden it a


bit. And I speak about my own party too here. I think politicians of


all sides haven't focused anything like enough on the 50 or more per


cent of young people not planning to go to university. That must be


corrected. We must do more to raise the aspirations of those kids. I'm


not against GCSE reform. I'm not against making it more rigorous. I


think one exam board is good, but it makes me laugh that competition


amongst exam boards is a bad thing but amongst schools is a good thing


that. Seems to be a contradiction with Mr Gove. A unified


qualification is the right thing. This latest proposal - I will


finish on this - is more evidence of a man with a plan for some


schools and some children, not all schools and all children. He gets


feted by the right-wing press as the great reformer, but what I see


when I look at him is an old- fashioned elitist. APPLAUSE


Julie White? Well, I just see it so complicated, it must be so


frustrating for students, parents and teachers. I can only talk on


the business side of it. As a business person employing, I want


to know when someone arrives in front of me and they've got a grade


B and it is not an A in another exam board or a C in another exam


board. It is frustrating. I think we should make a decision, stick


with it, simplify it have one example board and really stick with


it. Do you trust, one of the complaints is they say businesses


can't trust the GCSE results that come through? One of Gove's idea is


that the O-level is a more rigorous academic test. It would give me a


better clue. An A would be an A, a B and so on. I feel they are


messing around with children's education and that's what will be


taking this country on. We are just meting around with their education.


You sir on the gangway. It is the latest bad idea from Mr Gove which


started with the withdrawal of millions of pounds of money from


Sandwell for investment in its schools. APPLAUSE The man in the


front row. I would like to ask you, Andy Burnham, what you and your


colleagues would do different. You've opposed every single Tory


measure so far in this Parliament and to be a credible opposition you


need credible policies. You haven't got it and it is not good enough.


That's a fair challenge. We are rebuilding an opposition. It


wouldn't be right for us to come out straight and see here are our


policies when we are only a year or two out of Government. When I was


shadow secretary I proposed a UCAS- style system for apprenticeships. I


wanted kids to be able to apply for apprenticeships in the same way


that kids on the academic route can apply for university. I want them


to have the same sense of ambition when they are in year eight or year


nine at school. That's what I was talking about when I said focus on


the 50%. Can you advise the rest of your colleagues from prancing


around the BBC studios and saying you have to wait for our manifesto.


Angela Eagle said yesterday you have to wait until 2015. It is not


good enough. The man in the check shirt. An issue I would like to


highlight here, the only reason I can see that we are reverting back


to the O-level system is that GCSEs are easy. I worked damned hard for


my GCSEs... APPLAUSE And for someone to tell me they are easy is


ridiculous. And he wants to reform A-levels and make them harder? If


he wants to sit them for me... APPLAUSE I'm going to try and


defend Michael Gove. I'm not sure I will be the most popular person in


the building. What he is generally trying to do is raise educational


standards across the board. Less reliance on modules and the 16-


year-old examination as well. To have a harder - I take your point


that the GCSEs is not a give away - but have harder exams at 16 so that


people would be better equipped to go on to A-levels. There are a lot


of criticisms in schools that the GCSE doesn't always equip the


pupils well fluff to go on to A- levels. There's a big gap of


ability and standards between the GCSEs and the A-levels. I think he


is trying to push up the O-levels to get near tore the A-levels.


about these steered away from O- levels? I heard Ken baker this


morning. He is keen on technical academies. It picks up on what Andy


Burnham said about the apprenticeship scheme. You have to


think carefully about the people who aren't going to go down this


new route. Look at Germany, Switzerland and Austria. These


countries explicitly stream people very carefully but they are very


carefully worked out sul buses for sifrt people's apt tueds --


syllabuss for different people's apt tueds. They regard technical


ability and craft skills almost as well as academic skills.


reality is that what he has done strikes me as nothing short of


arrogance. The image of this Government being out of touch is


once again demonstrated. Like the young gentleman there, I've got a


15-year-old daughter. To suggest that GCSEs are easy, and that young


students today don't work hard is an absolute disgrace. What's being


done here is unbelievable. Not even his Cabinet colleagues know about


it. We've got the Liberal Democrats, part of the coalition, who are


saying, Nick Clegg is indicating he is going to block it. The arrogance


of Michael Gove knows no boundaries. It is a second class ti tore second


class citizens and it is a disgrace. If there is going to be


improvements in our educational standards they should be properly -


ed with the professions and with all parties. Hundreds of thousands


of young people like my daughter are now going to be demotivated as


they go in to take GCSEs that they are already getting told are going


to be told are second class qualifications. How does that help?


APPLAUSE Alright. Ken Clarke, just to pick up on what Mr Clusclus said.


Did you know -- on what Mr Len McCluskey said, did you know about


this? It's a good old-fashioned leak. I don't think anybody outside


the Department for Education knew much about it. Was that the first


time you saw it? Mr Gove is the best leaker in Whitehall. How do


you feel about the Secretary of State for Education leaking to the


Daily Mail and not telling you? the Secretary of State for


Education leaked it I would feel strongly, but I don't think he did.


It is not the first leak we've had in British Government. This has


been worked out in the Department for Education. When it is finished


it will then go to a Cabinet Committee, the chairman is Nick


Clegg and the deputy chairman is me. Will it be considered collectively.


What I like about the noises about it, because the leaker knows what


he or she is talking about when they talked to the Daily Mail, I


think most people have agreed that the ideas of the exam boards


competing in the way they do has to be stopped, because it is annoying


for people who worked for a good GCSE find you could get a good


result if the teachers hold a conference and know what the


answers should be. Are you defending your GCSEs? I think the


issue with exam boards is a farce. How can one grade be different to


another? An A is an A. The idea of actually apresentistships for


example, of course we are increasing, boosting the number of


apprenticeships, paying more money towards them, even in these


difficult times, and real apprenticeships, offered by


employers, not calling it an apprenticeship if you go to a


further education college on a course. A lot of things need to be


done and we need to give the best ones proper status. A Rolls-Royce


apprenticeship is as good as a degree. We need more of these.


you will remember, it was Margaret Thatcher's Government that


introduced GCSEs. And it was Keith Joseph as Secretary of State. He


said it will do more than O-levels to stretch the Abe lest pupils, it


will grade candidates better than now and be clear tore candidates,


their parents and employers than the current system, and it will be


more cost effective. Why are you going backwards? Because a quarter


of a century later, many Secretaries of State, a lot of time


has passed, it hasn't been developed in that way, it is not


providing that. The key thing with this is we are in a terrible


economic crisis, the worst sufferers are the young. The people


who are really getting the rough end of there recession are people


about to leave school or university. One of the things we have to face


up to is our education standards are no longer world class. We are


not fitting enough of these people for a modern height high-tech


economy. To hear, when we talk about restoring academic standards


in academic subjects, to hear people saying it is elitist is 1960.


I remember students coming out with that type of thing years and years


ago. You need qualifications, vocational and academic, genuinely


match up to what our competitors in Asia and Singapore are going to


provide. Is it not going to happen? Nick Clegg found us a leak...


said it is not going to happen, that he is against it. It will come


to a committee which he chairs. It is true usually when you get a leak


of something you don't want to leak it comes from somebody inside your


department who doesn't like what you are doing. If Nick is alarmed


by what he has seen in the Daily Mail, he will be chairing the


committee. I will be there and we'll talk about raising academic


standards in this country and The woman in pink, and then the


woman below. Reverting to the old- style O levels and emphasising on


how difficult they are will put off youngsters carrying on with


education. So what is the point in that? And you? From my experience,


I did not learn to write until I was 16. What worries me about the


proposals is that you can think it is elitist but at 14 you are making


a judgement about someone. People develop at different levels. I was


very lucky in 1969 and I went to a good further education college in


London, and I spent five years there. I did O-levels, GCSEs, A-


levels, I went to South Bank Polytechnic. I am the first in my


family to get a degree. I could have been written off, like a lot


of young people. What worries me with the education system today, if


you are selecting a 14 and saying, somebody has more hands-on


experience, someone is more academic, you are not actually


giving the opportunity to people to develop. You need a system which is


flexible enough that will develop people, and as people get older


they develop in different ways. And you can combine academic and


practicality. In fact, you need to do both.


I would like to make two points. The first is about schools picking


easy GCSEs to teach. There is a lot of pressure on schools to do well


in league tape -- league tables. The teaching of students to pass


exams. If they do not do that, they will not do well in the league


tables. The second point is that the Government approach on reform,


I agree that changes need to be made but it is more of a top-down


approach. We are looking at reforming A-levels and GCSEs but


you should focus on early-years and making sure primary school kids


leave with reading and writing skills to do well in later life.


The man in the white shirt. There is a bigger issue than that. We


have to stop these kids, in future years, taking any sort of belief in


their GCSEs they are going to be taking. The year 9 pupils now will


be in total flux come 2014. They will not know what they are doing.


The present pupils will not value their GCSEs. The transition from O-


levels to GCSEs did not have that effect. That is an argument for


never changing anything. The point was very good about primary and


early-years. We have seen the biggest rise in class sizes over-


thirties in primary schools because there is a shortage of primary


places all over the country, but Mr Gove is throwing all of the Monir


free schools, not putting the money where it is needed. Disgracefully,


the money was taken off Sandwell earlier in his Government. I have


been to some of those schools and they are struggling. That money


should have gone are here. I think the lady put it perfectly. It is


nudges and winks back to grammar schools. As somebody who came


through the comprehensive system and went to Cambridge, I believe


passionately in the comprehensive principle. Yes, it can be improved


and we need more aspiration, but let's not have been whittled away


by these reforms From Mr Gove. -- let us not have it whittled away.


It must be frustrating for teachers and children. We learnt the basic


things in life, reading, writing and adding up. Starting from there


we have seen, in the Black Country, you had all of the pupils'


developing, educated from that to become millionaires. Surely you


start from the beginning, reading, writing and adding up. So you are


with Michael Gove? Start at the beginning, with the basic skills.


Reading, writing, adding up. Start from there and then progress. The


it must be so frustrating now. Each Government has different ideas, and


where are the kids today? I agree with the lady at the back. We do


not put enough emphasis on vocational qualifications and the


fact that somebody who may not be brilliant, literally, at literacy,


but who is remarkable with their hands, we have not enough people in


the construction industry. We are trying to develop skills and


apprenticeships and give people a chance in construction. It was not


consider glamorous but it is an essential part of the economy going


forward. If we do not start to invest in what we need in future we


will find ourselves back to the labour shortages that we had 20


years ago. Nodding in agreement. Yes, I am in construction. We were


talking earlier and we were saying that people are coming into


apprenticeships because they think it is a second class thing. But it


is not. It is amazing. If you get into a company like mine, a true,


old fashioned apprentice. You come, you learn the trade, mentored by an


older Diamond driller. You can get a bonus, the same as the older


workers. And you are guaranteed a job, because I have invested in you,


you know the process from start to finish, and I am doing the


apprenticeship course. I got one Shia see in religious education and


I am running a multi-million-pound company. -- a GCSE. I am taking the


course because I want to see what my men are doing, I need to see it.


Why can we not follow Germany or Switzerland? An apprenticeship is a


fantastic thing. There should be more people doing it. There are


lots of kids getting on the bandwagon of apprentices and they


are falling off. There are so many hands up. I take issue with Andy


Burnham who was sitting there nodding to one of those comments.


The problem with apprenticeships was that the last Labour Government


pushed and pushed my generation that you had to go to university,


get as many people to university as possible. What was wrong with only


the best people going to good universities and taking the country


forwards, rather than people going to do hairdressing at university,


which they could have done at college or at school? They get lots


of debt for nothing. I have a vested interest, not only


because I have two grandson's in state education, but I am also


chair of governors at this college. I know that every child is


different and we get lost in this argument about whether it is


vocational, or whether it is academic. This college, among many


others, does both sides of things. Whether you want to be a motor


vehicle engineer, a dental nurse, or whether you want to follow the


path into academia, that is fine. You can cater for everybody, but it


is wrong to say that everybody should be treated the same because


we are not the same. Our children are not the same. Let's make sure


we give them a breadth of opportunity. Next time you want a


plumber, it is no good looking to somebody who is great at cracking


codes. We have to get the balance in society right. If we celebrate


those differences, we will have a more rounded society and will not


have a lot of the problems we currently have.


And are you in support of Michael Gove and the proposals for


reintroducing O-levels? What we had seen so far is the headline. As Ken


Clarke said, this has some distance to travel. GCSEs have been in place


for 30 years. Any system needs to be looked at again, possibly


revised. If we need to move with the times and compete with the rest


of the world, we have to take the right sort of actions. I cannot


tell me whether I am in favour until I see the whole argument set


out. -- I cannot tell you. Let's move on because we have other


questions. We have a question from Kanti Patel. Do I have more chance


of attending a state banquet than of seeing banks increasing lending


to small businesses? You are thinking of the Mansion House


banquet. Julie White. Are you critical of the banks? Are they


lending money that you need? They are not lending money, let me tell


you. I have a company that is growing, 20% a year on year, but


they are not lending. They are looking in the past, on the balance


sheet. We know what we have been through. 2008-2010 was horrendous


for the construction industry. They are always looking backwards. They


want to look forward now. We are all looking positive. It was great


that the Government was boosting 145 billion into the economy for


the banks to lend, but why are they not watching what is coming out the


other end? They are not watching what the banks are sending out to


small businesses. Half the time, they give you products that you do


not want and there is no way you can actually take them. So we need


them to start lending to us companies to grow, to employ, to


bring on apprentices and get the economy going.


You were Chancellor of the Exchequer once. You cannot order


the banks to lend to businesses, can you? What do you do? No, you


cannot. We might get on to the macro-economic questions later. If


you come to this country and you ask, what is the biggest single


problem facing us trying to get our economy to recover, it is that the


banks are not providing credit to small businesses. Every small


business will tell you it is very difficult to get working capital,


New Investment for start-ups, very difficult. Why are they scared of


doing it? They are sorting out their balance sheets, easier ways


of making bigger margins. You give them low-cost loans and they


actually have to rebuild their own balance sheets. So you cannot make


it happen? We have an agreement and a kind of hip the figures. We just


announced, at the Mansion House, actually, Georgia announced his


latest idea. We have tried credit easing and it has had some effect.


-- George announced his latest idea. Now, the Bank of England will make


available money with conditions attached that they would get it if


it is used for lending to small business. You still need the bank


to decide whether the small business is viable. It is no good


losing money on over-optimistic schemes. This is a monster scheme.


I have put in for that and they have come back and so that I am too


good. Is that the credit guarantee scheme? Yes. They have said you are


too big for it. The new one is still being designed. It was


announced 10 days ago. It is a colossal sum of money. But will you


get there? You say it is better, but... It will not get there. Let's


consider having our own British Investment Bank. We have poured


hundreds of billions of pounds into the banks. We owe no RBS and Lloyds,


so let's turn it into a British Julie has had to move to a Swedish


bank in order to help her develop. There are thousands of great


entrepreneurs like her who want to stimulate the economy. The


announcement at Mansion House by the Governor of the Bank of England


that there is �100 billion that they are going to make available


was an admission that the Government's strategy is failing.


There is no growth in our economy. If the banks will not lend, we need


to take control of the banks because we own them. We have put


hundreds of billions of pounds, and we should be investing in companies


like Julie's and many, many others, to invest in British communities,


British jobs, British manufacturing. That is the way to get us kick-


started on growth. In the white shirt. Up I would not want the


Government to look after any more money. I certainly would not want


anything to do with the Government with money. I have seen the


catastrophe over the road with the building called the Public. This


building was made by private money, made on time, on budget, and look


at it, perfect, no problem. All that we want is a situation that


works. Let's just get business to run things, not politicians.


what do you do, going back to the question, if the banks will not


lend the money to people like Julie all the businesses who are talking


about? They have got to lend them the money. Something has got to


change because we cannot keep talking about what the answer is


but then not giving them money to I think you are right not to want


the Government to do too many things directly. We all agree that


small businesses do struggle to get loans from the banks, especially at


an interest rate that they can afford. There are regulations on


the banks, becoming tighter and tighter. They have to hold more and


more capital, they have to shrink their balance sheets because of the


Troubles over the financial crisis of 2008 and that makes it harder


for banks to lend. They haven't shortened their bonus My turn. The


Government obviously recognises this and so does Sir Mervyn King.


Ken Clarke mentioned the loan guarantee scheme, it is early days.


What about the �100 billion announced at the Mansion House.


is called Funding for Lending. This is what you are referring to, Ken.


The idea that the Bank of England will lend cheap money to the


commercial banks. It could be 3-4% lower than otherwise would be the


case, which would be a terrific fillip for small businesses. And


the commercial banks on commercial criteria will lend to small


businesses. Is it going to work? haven't got the details yet but it


is as good as it gets, because it is the Bank of England behind it.


And it is a sizeable amount of money. An extraordinary amount of


money. An extraordinary amount you say. Yes. We are missing the point


in that I think the reasons why banks won't do it are twofold. One,


they would be held accountable for some of the disastrous things they


do and it might eat into their bonuses, and we couldn't have that,


could we! I'm a social entrepreneur and work


with Mo other social entrepreneurs who find it difficult to find


capital, because the banks don't understand what the social economy


is around and about. Sorry, for the sake of clarity, what kind? We are


businesses that put into the economy but we make sure the


outcomes of our work has a social good to it. What's your business?


work with young people, the intermediate labour markets, retail,


ground maintenance and catering, a number of things in the Black


Country. I've approached our social enterprise partnership and they've


agreed to take a risk to create social enterprise zones across the


Black Country area. Part of that model is we release capital, get


businesses working with each other. Public sector, private sector and


civil society working together to make sure that business is good.


Are you short of cash? Are you offering? We are always short of


cash, because the banks, I have a good relationship with them, but


trying to get them to understand what the social economy is about is


a difficult model for them. So you have to try to get money from


elsewhere and it is more expensive than a high street bank. OK. Andy


Burnham? I hope somebody in the Treasury is sitting listening to


Julie tonight, as maybe it will shake them out of their complacency.


What she says really has to be heard. I will be at the Lee


Business Forum tomorrow morning and there'll be the same complaints


again. They will all be saying, we can't get any support from the


banks. These companies have been here a long time. They've got a


solid track record. The banks know who they are. They understand their


business, so why are they still not lending to them? Small businesses


must feel so frustrated. It must look like the voice of big business


is heard in Government but never the small business. Len McCluskey's


business about the banks, the country sorted them out a few years


ago. They said we understand the effect on the economy if they don't,


lit drag them down But they are suiting themselves and it is not


acceptable. We say how can the banks do it? We own a large chunk


of the banks, we have the Merlin agreement, and we were promised the


money would come through but it never has. The one thing I would


say, you mentioned what's going on with the LEP. I thought this


Government was cavalier in wiping away good things that were working.


Advantage West Midlands, the RDA, was a good thing, to bring


investment in. Why just wipe it away. Splim it down a bit, refocus


it a bit, but taking it away has set all of the regions back. They


said because Labour did it we are just going to get rid of it.


APPLAUSE We only have under ten minutes left. I want to take this


one from Harry Roberts please. doctors right to strike, or should


Yes they were. The doctorings are the lathe es in a number of public


sector workers who veryjected the Government's attempt to steal money


out of the pension funds. The Government's plans are to make


public sector workers pay more, get less and work longer. There is no


legitimacy for it, because the pension funds that are there to


govern what public sector workers get are sustainable. That argument


that the Government put forward at the beginning of this campaign,


that it wasn't affordable, because blown out of the water. I have no


doubt that there'll be people on this panel who will want to attack


doctors and public sector workers. We shouldn't demonise public sector


workers. They are the people who teach our kids, heal our sick, care


for our elderly and vulnerable, encourage our youth, clean our


streets, collect our refuse, the very people who create the


civilised fabric of the communities in which we live. They didn't cause


this crisis. Private sector workers and ordinary people didn't cause


this crisis. It was the spivs and the speculators. APPLAUSE It was


the spivs and the speculators, the greedy fat cat bankers and CEOs in


boardrooms who caused the crisis. The Government should be attacking


them, not decent men and women. APPLAUSE Are you saying that there


is no financial problem at all with public sector pensions? There is no


financial problem whatsoever. The deal cut in 2008 with the then


Labour Government, pensions is highly economy kaicted. Actuaries


go into -- highly complicated. Actuaries go into depth and all the


schemes that cover public sector workers are in surplus. All the


Government are doing is they are simply stealing out of workers'


back pockets. Why? We heard all this stuff about gold plated


pensions. In the NHS the average pension is �4,000. The same in


local government. Doctors work eight years to get, do any of us


trust our doctors here? I suspect we all do. They work hard. They get


a decent pay. They put into a pension scheme so they can have


dignity in requirement. They didn't cause it. Len McCluskey, thank you.


I want to ask Ken Clarke to comment on this. On the question, we'll


find out tomorrow about 9 out of 10 doctors will have decided that this


was one of the more silly things the BMA decided to do for a very


long time. We do all respect our doctors. I strongly suspect the


vast majority of doctors did not take action, which can only have an


adverse effect on patients. They turn up to get paid and they don't


treat the pensioners and they expect tow sympathise with their


claims on their pensions? Why did they vote for it if you say


(Inaudible) Because like the last Government they thought it would


back down when threatened by doctors, which is when they got


their colossal pay and pensions settlement through. It hasn't


worked. Len McCluskey says there is no problem. I'm afraid I was trying


to keep a straight face during that. If we don't, we should have tackled


public sector pensions a long time ago. If we don't tackle it and make


it fair now, all we are doing is piling up a bigger problem. It is


no good looking at today's payout, it is going up astronomically. On


funding obligations, Get your facts straight. As part of the GDP, which


is what the pension schemes are based on, and the actuaries and


experts in pension, not only is it affordable, but it is coming down.


We have a fundamental disagreement on that. Lut me bring Andy Burnham


in. If you were a self employed person and you bought the pension


it could cost you �1.5 million to �2 million per person to get that


pension commitment for their retirement when it comes. They've


all been having to cut back. They will still be more attractive than


private sector pensions by far. We are getting back to sanity, common


sense and it has to affect doctorers just as much as it has to


affect nurses, teachers and everybody in the public sector.


Andy Burnham? I don't think the strike was justified. I said so


clearly, because in the case of doctors, obviously there's a direct


impact on vulnerable people and on patients. It always would have to


be an absolute last resort, extreme measures. I don't think those


criteria were met. Having said that, I'm not here to have a go at


doctors. I completely understand how they feel and how angry they


feel. When they came into Government this was a Government


that was going to listen to doctors. Doctors were going to be at the


centre of things. They've sought confrontation with their pension


and more than that... Do you think there's a problem? We did make


changes in 2008. Of course, as the population ages we need to look to


the long term to make it sustainable. The point where you


cut me off, the point I was going to make, the doctors have warned


David Cameron about the dangers of NHS reorganisation. What are we


seeing now? Crude, random rationing across the NHS. There was a report


that operations are being... Hang on, we only have a couple of


minutes. They said they would listen to doctors and they didn't.


Are you on their side? The NHS, the they said the NHS is like a


supertanker heading for an iceberg. Parents unforgivable what David


Cameron has done to the NHS. If we had listened to doctors we wouldn't


have the NHS in a very dangerous situation as we have right now.


sorry to rush you but we are coming to tend. Doctors have to realise


which child they love, the pension or the patient? I can't believe


we've got to this situation. Yes we are all working hard erpblgts,


working longer for less -- working harder, working longer for less


money. I'm sorry, it is hard out there. They are a pillar of the


community. I think that we should reward them well, but come on, this


is the real world. Ruth Lea? Picking up on what Julie has been


saying, the doctors, and I am a great respecter of doctors, the


doctors are well paid, especially after the 2004 settlement, and they


are extremely well pensioned. If you retire at 60 on a �120 a year


salary, you have a pension of �48,000 a year. Who else has that


in this room? A tax-free lump sum of �140. When you talk about paying


in, the point is that these pensions are 80% of their pensions


are paid for by the taxpayer.. 80%. We know what the public finances


look like. Those are the facts Len. Bless them. Although I love the


doctors well, they are well positioned. Even after these


changes the Government's proposed they will be extremely well


pensioned in comparison with people in the private sector. I'm sorry, I


have to stop. We are only allowed one hour by BBC One and our hour is


one hour by BBC One and our hour is up. So apologies. We are going to


be in Luton next week. We'll have the actor and comedian Tony


Robinson on the panel, Justin Greening for the Conservatives,


Tessa Jowell for Labour. The week after that we'll be in Derby.


Dame Tessa Jowell I must say. never use titles on Question Time.


David Dimbleby chairs from West Bromwich. On the panel are justice secretary Ken Clarke, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, general secretary of the Unite trade union Len McCluskey, economist Ruth Lea and Midlands businesswoman of the year Julie White.

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