28/06/2012 Question Time


David Dimbleby chairs from Luton. With Transport Secretary Justine Greening, Shadow Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell, Paddy Ashdown, Tony Robinson and Terry Smith.

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Tonight, we're in lieu on the. Welcome to Question Time.


-- we're in Luton. Welcome to Question Time.


And on our panel here, the Transport Secretary, Justine


Greening, the shadow Olympics Minister, Tessa Jowell, who was


Culture Secretary when London won the Olympic Games. The former


leader of the Liberal Democrats, Paddy Ashdown. The chief executive


of the leading City of lon brokerage firm, Terry Smith and the


-- Tony Robinson. Good. It is very, very hot in here,


so forgive us if we all pour sweat through the programme! Let's have


the first question, which will bring sweat to any brow. From


Andrew Collon. Is there any integrity left in British banking?


It is almost like they are not human, isn't it? You look at them


and think, these people do not live in the same world as us! Before the


crisis happened they were decimating the high street banks,


laying off all their staff, putting us all on computers when they


clearly had not developed the technology. They told us they were


doing that to make things better for us. They didn't. They made


things worse for us. It was simply in order to collect up an enormous


amount of money that they could invest in the casino of


international banking and they blew it buzz they did not understand it.


We -- because they did not understand it. They do not end us


money, even though they have promised to do so.


APPLAUSE And they then have the gall to


increase their wages by 12%, to give themselves bonuses and say,


we've got to do this, because if we don't, we'll leave the country. All


the time, actually, in the background, they are committing


acts, which in any other business I think would be seen as criminal.


APPLAUSE I remember a time when the bank


manager, along with the doctor and the magistrate was the person who


signed your passport - the person for whom society had an enormous


amount of respect. I don't know about you, I have no respect for


British bankers and the British banking system at all. They've


dragged us into that situation. It about about time they started


getting us out of it. APPLAUSE


Terry Smith? Yes, it is very difficult. I suppose I've got to


agree with Tony Robinson on one point - which is the criminality


point. Seeing what happens with this scandal which broke today, it


must be very difficult for ordinary people looking at that. If you


defrauded somebody on your mortgage application you would probably go


to jail. This is an action which has been taken which certainly


affected the price you pay for your mortgage. Why isn't anyone going to


go to jail? I have to say, I think there is a case to answer there. As


for the point about bankers leaving the country, I too have heard that


raised many times by them. In relation to the way people have


behaved in recent years - if they do, good. Do you think there should


be criminal prosecutions? Or is it impossible to prosecute people for


lying about interest rates? It is possible. There is the Theft Act,


1968, which was updated in 1986, as the fraud act. It is a good piece


of law that people can employ for that. Going back to the point of


any integrity - I think there are two types of banking I would


distinguish between. One is the trading bit, with the big bonuses


and massive losses. Buried within those banks are some decent people


who operate in the retail branches, who have struggled, even though


they have not been given the tools. APPLAUSE


Justine Greening? I think it does seem hard to find a lot of


integrity left in the banking system at times. What has broken


today, the FSA's investigation and the Barclays is unacceptable. It


shows a culture of greed which had sprung up in the banking industry.


We will look at how we can introduce criminal sanctions to


take action on this sort of behaviour. They are not there at


the moment. We have to look to the last Government as to why they were


so lax on putting any of this infrastructure in place. If these


criminal sanctions had been there before people might have looked


more carefully about their behaviour. We will look at that. In


terms of what happens with these particular individuals, the FSA is


talking to the Serious Fraud Office already about whether we can look


at sanctions that are in place now to tackle what has happened. Going


forward we do need some criminal sanctions. I think that is long


overdue. What is the charge you made against the previous


Government? There was a code of conduct about how they worked in


the labour market. Instead of putting it on the statute books,


which they did and putting teeth on it and saying, if you don't follow


this there will be criminal sanctions against you. They just


did that. It was a light touch. There was no teeth to it. That is


one of the reasons why we've ended up with the culture which has led


to today's investigation. Obviously we have to wait and see about the


20 other institutions which are being looked into. It could be a


wide-ranging investigation. It is utterly shocking to see what has


happened. I agree with Terry - this has affected all of our mortgages


possibly. I am shocked by what has gone on. I hope we can take some


serious action about it. Certainly, in Parliament, this Government will


look at what we can do for criminal sanctions as well. The man in red


there, in the third row from the back.


I think I agree with Tony. It is a very easy excuse for the


Conservative Party to blame the last Labour Government for


absolutely everything. Fraud is fraud. If people are frauding the


British banking system, they should be investigated. They should be


locked up. APPLAUSE


The person in the second row from the back.


Yes. How long does the coalition Government intend on blaming the


last Government for mistakes that have been made and they've done


nothing to rectify? Now you are saying, I think it is a good idea


if we maybe look at this. We are bringing forward regulation of the


banking industry right now. That is why we can take some action on this.


This fraud case which was uncovered and the fine which came out today


related to a fraud which took place during the last Government. Even


Labour in the House of Lords has admitted they sould have had a


criminal offence in place -- should have had a criminal offence in


place already. We can make sure we take action now. This report is now


out. We know there is probably more investigation to happen. That's why


we are determined to take some action. Tessa Jowell? Of course the


point is that when we were the last Government, it was the


Conservatives that were criticising us for being over regulatorry with


the banks and what hindsight has shown is we did not do enough. In


March, when it was Labour who proposed putting the rate that is


now at the centre of the controversy today on the statutory


footing, it was simply brushed aside by the Treasury Minister. The


fact is, this is an appalling situation. What we have to


establish is who knew what? How high up Barclays this went? Over


the next period of few days and weeks, we'll find out whether this


practise was actually operating in other banks as well. It is


absolutely appalling. Do you get the feeling that the bankers run


rings around the politicians? APPLAUSE There is a very important


point here and I think the gentleman already made this point,


you know, you can have all the regulation in the world, but if


people are not acting honestly, with integrity and decency,


respecting and understanding the importance of the money they are


handling on behalf of clients, then most people, if they are set on


that, will beat the system. It was day day day who talked about the


cull -- it was Bob Diamond who talked about the culture of what


happens when no-one is watching. What this revealed is just how


rotten that culture is. There are lots of people are hands up. Paddy


Ashdown you have not spoken. You have hit the nail on the head,


David, that the British public thinks that the bankers and the


rich run rings around politicians. I have to say, it's all too true


and Tessa agreed with that by saying they did too much. One


reason is because of the rich and politics and of the funding of


political parties and their ability... By the way you have seen


it in the press as well. The question is not, how did we get


here? The question is, what do we do next? Andrew said, have we got


any moral trust in the morality of bankers? Listening to the news I


was reminded of a poem by Phillip Larkin. He said "England a cast of


crooks and tarts." In this sense, all those who are the most powerful,


all that we trusted, the establishments of the establishment


seem to fall below the standard of public service. There is something


big here we need to tackle T first question is, how do we tackle this


issue we heard about today? The British public, one of our national


pastimes is moral outrage. We love to do it. On this occasion it is


entirely justified. Here is some things we need to do. I am


delighted the coalition is strengthening regulations. I hope


the Labour Party will, I hope it gets through fast. If there is a


case, and my learned friends tell me they think it is tricky to bring


criminal actions against these people at the moment - but if we


can, we should. Watch out bankers, there are civil cases coming your


way, not least from the United States. Secondly, we should be


limiting. There are more to come out, then their operations in the


speculative marketplace should be limited. I see no reason why that


should not be a sanction taken against banks, who behaved in an


outrageous fashion. The last point is this, and it refers to the


personality of Bob Diamond, there has been a clear, systemic failure


in Barclays and more important than that there has been a complete


breakdown of the moral culture of a bank that allows its supporters to


do that. I am afraid Mr Diamond is in a fool or nave situation. If he


did know, he was a nave and if he didn't, he was a fool. Frankly I


think his position is untenable, unless new facts come to light and


I doubt they will. I hope he'll take the appropriate action.


APPLAUSE The do you agree? I agree. He


touched upon something... I know I am here to answer questions, but I


wanted to ask one. If the Government is serious about dealing


with this, why won't it split these banks between casino and retail


operations? The case would be unanswerable. I agree.


Justine Greening? I am sure we will look carefully at what this shows


for regulation on banking. We are taking a bill through Parliament


right now which tackles a lot of these regulatory problems we


inherited. We had a big inquiry. We are taking on bored those


recommendations. We are clear we need -- on board those


recommendations. We are clear we need to regulate that. The woman in


green at the very back there? got a comment for Justine Greening.


I'm actually fed up of hearing from the Conservative Party, oh we've


inherited this from the previous Government. Can I just ask, why on


earth did you bother to seek power if you could not undo or improve on


what the previous Government did? We are. We are and there are lots


of different things we as a Government need to work on. Sorting


out this regulatory system which failed, which is part of the reason


people get bored of, because they have heard it for two years.


The man there in the blue shirt. Is it not true that as a result of


all this, that the greater the good of the nation have been -- the


great and the good of the nation have been found in not just banks,


for "cash for questions", in mobile phone hacking, the whole, everybody,


all of them seem to be let down the general public over and over again?


Anyone in the audience from the finance or business industry?


brave person ?! You in the spectacles? It's very simple to say


more regulation is needed but more regulation without effective


supervision takes you nowhere. you, Sir? Are you also a banker?


work in accounts but somebody touched on it earlier - Tony said


that they threaten to leave if we dare say anything to them, why


don't we just let them leave? I want to go back to you, Sir. You


said it's all very well to make the changes in regulation, but can't do


anything without it being properly policed. Do you think it's


impossible to be policed? No. a complex thing about understating


the interest rate that you are getting on your money and that sort


of thing and people clearly chatting behind-the-scenes and


bleaking open the champagne and thank you for this and thank you


for that, you don't see that, do you, that's the trouble, it's not


there on the surface? I don't think it's impossible to have effective


supervision, but rather like the poacher being the most effective


gamekeeper, giving control back to the Bank of England so people who


understand the system and know what tricks are being played, they are


in a better position to control the investment part of banking. Do you


think the Bank of England could control things? I think it can


control things better than the authorities. It would be hard to be


worse, wouldn't it? APPLAUSE


There's one other remedy which nobody's mentioned yet, which is


absolute financial transparency. The reason that the libel rate was


fiddled was mainly I think because Barclays wanted to obscure what


kind of cash that it had at that time. In fact, the reason why so


many European countries are doing so badly is because nobody really


knows how much the banks are worth so it becomes, as I said, a casino


with people gambling on who's got how much. The one thing above


everything else I think which would really help us get to grips with


the financial crisis and get the bankers in tow would be financial


transparency, if we knew how much the banks were worth and also if we


split the banks in two between the high street sector and the


commercial sector. APPLAUSE


Let's just remember one thing. I'm a Liberal and used to not being in


the majority, if you wouldn't be a Liberal:


I hesitate to come out and defend the bankers, but let's just


remember one thing. This is one of our nation's great industries.


Before we send them all down the plug hole, we ought to consider how


to make it better. The gentleman's point over here about oversight


reinforces the point made by Terry, the right point by the way. If you


split the speculative from the domestic banks, you have a much


tighter system, it's easier to provide the oversight for it. So


that is one of the key reforms that we have to institute. We'll bring


in a financial conduct authority that will have more teeth and work


effective, more effectively than the FSA. That's been one of the


challenges. You will regulate this issue of Liboy? Eye yes. When?


We'll look at whether we can bring that or other legislation forward -


- Libor. We have a lot to get through.


We always welcome your comments on the programme if you are watching


at home. There was an outcry about me saying texting was under threat,


we are now trying to find ways of keeping it going, so keep talking


about it stopping, because it won't because you did complain. That's


people power for you. We need some of that in the banks. People like


watching this programme with comments underneath. We are trying


to think of a way of putting Twitter on the vein as well but


it's very technical and very important. Keep at it, if you would.


April Saunders, please? scrapping the petrol duty rise a


sensible thing given how much the Government is in debt? Tessa


Jowell? We are glad the Government's decided to defer the


petrol duty until January because it will bring a little bit of


relief to families who're under enormous pressure. We also, Labour,


put forward a proposal as to where the money should come from and we


haven't yet heard that from the Government and this appears to have


been a rather extraordinarily stitched up decision over a couple


of hours. It would be very good to know when Justine was told about it


- was she told about it before George Osborne announced it? But


the fact is that families are facing a terrible squeeze and


deferring yet a further increase on petrol will help. But of course,


whey did they ever get into this position in the first place because


her here is yet another U-turn and we've heard a lot about the


omnishambles of the Budget. Here's another bit, but a bit from which a


specific proposal from which families will benefit. That's a


good thing. Plauz mauz


APPLAUSE Greening,, Justine Greening, you


said this week that you were not going to lobby the Treasury to


delay or abandon the 3p rise, did it come as a surprise to you when


the Chancellor suddenly announced it? No. I was informed before he


made the announcement. I think having spent my time in Treasury


before I went into the Department for Transport, there are several


tax rises that had been pre-laned into the public finances so I spent


a lot of time in Treasury looking at how you can avoid them. -- pre-


planned. We have cut fuel duty so far in one case and worked hard to


delay the other planned increases that were already set in stone.


So I think we have done the right thing and actually... When you say


it wasn't a surprise, on Tuesday you were saying one thing, then the


Chancellor was saying another thing? Well, it's never been my


sense that giving a running commentary on what Government's


thinking of doing maybe is a good idea. I don't think there's any


point in raising expectations if you then don't know that you can


necessarily meet them and I think George Osborne was pretty pragmatic


in saying we'd got a bit of flexibility opening up in this


year's finances so I'm delighted that the first thing he chose to


look at what he could do to help out on was to push back that fuel


duty rise. I think that's absolutely the right thing.


wouldn't want to obsess about when and why and how you knew, but...


Yes you would! You would love to. wouldn't because the process is one


thing but it's the decision that interests me. Paddy Ashdown, what


do you make of the decision and the way it was taken? I'm not sure my


party was terrifically happy because we have to sustain the


attack on the deficit. We also think that there's a real case here


for creating a more fuel efficient society. But on the other hand, let


me put this point to you. If the deficit is the major thing we have


to do, and it is, nevertheless we are largely I think because of


external factors like for instance the euro crisis and the huge rise


in oil prices and commodity prices earlier in the year, the economy's


now in a difficult state. So we've got to get people with more money


in their pockets and able to spend. Talking about attacking the deficit


but also you have to get the economy moving. When you balance


these things out, that was the right thing to do for now in the


present economic situation. The fact that it wasn't a few months


ago was because we were in a dufrpbt situation. At the present


moment, while continuing to attack the deficit, it would have been


wrong to have used the extra money that would have been generated here


to put into deficit Dutting and better to put it into people's


pockets to get the economy moving again. My judgment on balance, the


right decision. There was no knead for any of this. This is what I


find galing. Oil in the oil fields has gone down something like 30% in


the last few months as the economies of the world have got


poorer. And yet, petrol at the pumps has gone down, not by 30%,


but by 6%. If it was the other way around, if the price of oil had


gone back, you could imagine the increase would be in the pumps the


next day. We have seen another example of powerful big business


actually taking advantage of us while the recession is on. We


shouldn't have to have this argument because petrol ought to be


significantly cheaper. You are absolutely right.


APPLAUSE And that was one of the points I


was making earlier on this week, it's why I challenged the petrol


retailers to start passing on the reductions and wholesale prices to


consumers. We have laid down the gauntlet and said it's time for


them to be more transparent about what they are doing. I've already


had a good response for one of the retailers, ASDA. I think we can do


a huge amount more to make sure they play their role alongside what


we are trying to do as a government. Why wouldn't you lobby the Treasury


then to abandon the 3p rise? first port of call is to get the


petrol retailer to play their role, rather than taking money out of


public finances. But I think given that clearly there was some room


opened up in this year's finances, it was absolutely right... Hang on,


you could have taken it off the autumn Budget couldn't you. You are


Secretary of State for Transport, you are involved in everybody's


business on the roads, the cars, the petrol prices and all that.


That's right. At the beginning of the week you said you were not


going to reduce the 3p, it has to stick and suddenly the rug's pulled


out from under you. Because it was going to cost �1.5 billion and now


it costs about �500 million so the figures have shifted. That's


because if you... How do I know? I'm no longer a minister.


reason why is that if you did a long-term cut in fuel duty, it


costs you every year. We've just delayed the rise. Get it again in


January? Less. That's all we can afford to do. It will come in


January? Correct. And you won't be lobbying for the Treasury?


constantly trying to make sure we do our level best to make sure


motoring is affordable. We have challenged the retailers, I'm


working with the Ministry of Justice to tackle whiplash and try


and make sure insurance stays lower. I'm working with the garage


industry to make sure we can keep services your Carloer. I'm sure you


are doing all that. Let's stick with the petrol duty rise. The


woman there? I'm a student and I'm about to sit my driving test in two


weeks' time. What will the cost of fuel be like in 50 years' time when


I've still got a car and need to get about - why are people focusing


on what's happening now instead of what's going to happen in 20 or 30


years' time. How would you want them to do that? Just by saying,


about what they're going to do and what they want to highlight.


Everybody's focusing on what's happening now. You want a strategy


for the use of fuel? For the long- term future. You, Sir?


I personally support the Government. I don't think it's a U-turn, I


think it's the right turn for the Government at the moment for our


suffering and I give them that. Terry Smith? You have got to


distinguish the wood from the trees and Paddy Ashdown said the deficit


is the single biggest problem we face. In the light of that, in


round number terms, as we know, 0s mean nothing so we can take them


off the end, the Government has a basic income of �6 and is spending


�7. In the face of that, do anything that takes the �6 down


strikes me as the wrong decision. So you would have kept that or


increased it? I don't think increasing it is necessarily the


way to go. Why do you think it's been reduced? I don't know.


economy's doing very badly. We are in double-dip recession. Maybe he's


trying to stimulate the economy? I'm not sure we are in a double-dip


recession, I don't think we ever got out of one. If you think the


very modest improvement we had in any kind of economics in the last


year or so were after �500 billion of deficit, �3 25 billion of


quantitive easing and interest rates at their lowest level for 300


years. The economy was only just about alive at that point. Does


this do anything to help the economy? Not really. The order of


magnitude is not capable of touching it. We've got an annual


deficit of �25 billion. surprise me a little. You are a


highly successful businessman. that what surprises you? No, I'm


utterly delighted. The more the better, especially if they'll...


Never mind! Look, you don't run your business on one policy, you


run it on a combination. There is a priority but you run it on a


combination. The Chancellor has to do the right thing. He has to


address the management of the economy, the priority is to bring


down the deficit but also to make sure we get businesses and economic


growth generated again and therefore at this point when we are


tackling the deficit effectively, to do something even quite small,


to get the growth going, to get money in people's pockets, to get


them spending, surely is the right You go into a service station, they


might have adverts saying cheaper petrol, but you go inside they


charge you �8 for a bag of maltesers. You can't win. We can't


advertise! I am staggered by the naivety that


Tony Robinson gave out earlier on. If we reduce the price of petrol,


we reduce the tax take. What services would he like the


Government to cut to make up for the cut taxes? I don't think


reducing the price of petrol is the big issue that people say. I do


agree with you, that the problem with reducing it is that you end up


with half a billion or whatever the money is, which we've got to find


from somewhere else. What I'm saying to you is actually it is the


oil companies which have taken that money out of the economy. We could


have inveed that into boost for -- invested that into boost the growth.


I don't think that is naive, I think it is a justified. On the far


right there? I like to build on someone else's point about the


short-term nature of this. It seems the Government is short-term. This


is a 3p tax they could have cut earlier. Everything is too short-


term, we are not thinking about the long-term. If you realised this was


going to come about then we could have done something about it


earlier. It is similar with the banking thing, you've had two years


in power, you never put the legislation in place. Now the


problem has occurred you are saying that you blame Labour. We need to


get rid of this short-term and look at the long-term. The debt is meant


to rise in 20 years' time because of the pension crisis. We need to


look more at the long-term rather than looking at the short-term.


APPLAUSE Thank you. If you would answer the


question point on the short-term, U-turns and this fuel duty. We need


to stop making... In the terms of short-term, it took two years to go


through the bill on the financial regulation. To the lady's point at


the front, you are right, the best way we can help motorists is to get


them off the petrol hook in the first place... You are not


answering his point. He said you've had U-turns on the Budget, now you


have an announcement on tax. He said you are acting in a short-term


way. Why should this be later? You have done other measures quickly,


like the rise in VAT was done quickly. Why is this taking so much


longer if it is just as important? Especially with the U-turns they


are quite sherp. At the time of -- Therm. At the time of the Budget,


now into this financial year there is head-room opening up. The


Chancellor was able to say, it looks like we might have some money


to spend here,ly use it to try and delay this petrol rise. We can


start to allow people into hybrid and electric cars. That feels like


it is some time off now. I am looking at what we can do to speed


up that process, so people have the choice the next time they buy a car.


One of the big problems is affordability. We have grants


available to help people buy hybrid and electric cars.


Thank you very much. We will move on to a question from Julie Searle.


Why should me and my partner continue working, paying taxes,


struggling on a tight budget when those on benefits do nothing and


get paid a lot more? APPLAUSE


I am not sure you should. I suspect from, the way you asked that


question you are the sort of person who will. You raise an important


point - benefit reform was in the news this week. I think one of the


things that I would hope people would admire and we will see in a


moment is people telling the truth about the situation we're in.


There's been a marked absence of truth and straightforwardness about


the situation of our country in the last couple of years. Given we are


spending �7 for every �6, there'll have to be big cuts. Benefits will


have to be one of them. In terms of anybody who is on the


receiving end of the cuts, one thing I might sympathise is being


told your benefits are going to be cut, by an old Etonian might ring a


little hollow. Do you agree - those on benefits do nothing.... No. No.


You don't agree? You are miss representing what she said. If I


understood you right, Julia, what you were saying was, you work hard,


you look after your family, and why should you bring home less than


people who are on benefits and choose not to go out to work. Of


course we should have a welfare state for people who are unable for


periods of time or in the long-term, unable to provide for themselves.


We shouldn't have a welfare system where it's more financially


beneficial to be out of work and at home, rather than in work. Now,


that is a very easy ambition to state. In order to get to that


point, you have to have very clear commitment over a long period of


time to making sure that young people leave school with the skills,


that there are jobs in a growing economy, that particularly


expensive times of family's lives with childcare and so forth, help


is provided in order to make precisely that degree of self-


sufficientsy and independence that most families want for themselves.


I am absolutely with you. I think the problem with the Prime


Minister's speech this week is that it's like a sort of Christmas tree


of new initiatives and criticisms. Unsubstantiated. Some of these


instances of young people under 25 are very difficult. A lot are kids


who have left care. They are kids who may be orphans, may not have


parents to look after them. So, the hard cases can sometimes defeat the


best argument. That's why you've got to think this through carefully.


Once you embark on it, you've got to be prepared to see it through.


And what we have at the moment is, as the Government - the coalition


Government - promised a radical programme of welfare reform. The


implementation of those changes in two very important respects are


already behind time and over budget. What you are saying to her is that


there's nothing that can be done because you have to wait until....


No, I am not. The people on benefit their lives need to be improved.


She cannot look for any change in the short-term. For instance David


Cameron says you should scrap Housing Benefits for under 25s.


We're struggling. We earn �6 too much to get any more help, so... I


would get �200 a month better off if I was on benefits.


I will come back to you in a moment... Maybe. We all want a fair


benefit system. It must be more than frustrating. It depends what


fair means? It does, absolutely. It depends on how well organised and


policed our benefits are. I think one of the reasons why people get


so angry and frustrated so because so many people appear to receive


benefits that they are not really entitled to. That is again because


of these mad cuts at the Department of Work and Pensions. It's a


nightmare trying to get the benefit that you genuinely ought to receive.


I would remind people that actually we all pay in and most of us have


paid in for the best part of 50 years, not to something called


national handout or national welfare, we pay into national


insurance. That is for when times get hard.


The one thing out of this debate I would hate to see is to feel that


people who do draw benefits and draw them legitimately feel in some


way guilty, feel in some way they shouldn't do it, when that is


something they is worked their lives to guarantee they would get


at the end of it. APPLAUSE


It seems to me we're at risk of getting this interpretation of


poverty, where we say these people deserve benefits and these don't.


We should have a benefit system or none at all. I've gree it should be


national insurance. -- I agree it should be national insurance. Tessa


Jowell said that orphans, for instance, like my father was


orphaned at 12 and worked every day of his life. One cannot say these


people deserve and these don't, and therefore we should scrap it.


OK, the woman up there. I work in a university. A considerable amount


of my salary goes on tax and national insurance. I would like to


see the legal loophole closed that allows people to pay but 1% income




I think we should see it as a safety net rather than as a


lifestyle. I think some people see it as a lifestyle rather than a


safety net. There are people older than me who live near me that have


not worked a day in their life. I think that is disgraceful. We need


to change people's attitudes. I feel sorry for the lady who is


worse off than on benefits. At leeths I would say at least it is


more -- at least I would say to her, at least it is self-respecting and


pride. You earn your own money. The man up


there in the short-sleeveed shirt. Don't we think it is almost crazy


that someone wants to work 37.5 hours a week but is better off 30


hours a week. They are better sitting on 30 hours and want to


work more when work is available, but they thid it is not beneficial


- there's no incentive to do that. Paddy Ashdown?


The - let's see if I may have some historical background to this. The


welfare system was set up in 1945/46. It is something that I


think was a most magnificent and wonderful achievement. It gave


people a chance. That system, by the way built on the principal,


which is giving people a hand up rather than a handout has


degenerated. It is tangled and out of sink.


It is shared by all political parties.


Government after Government, since I have been in politics, 20 years


and more, nearly 30 now, have said, we'll reform the system, we'll live


up to the principals of Beveridge, and do it in a new way all have


ducked the challenge. They have fiddled at the edges. You don't


think what Cameron is suggesting... Hang on. I don't want you to talk


forever. I don't think I will talk forever. If you didn't interpret


perhaps I would not have to talk so long. That is a very rude thing to


say. Let's not go on with this argie-bargie. Here is what I have


to say - I am proud that this Government has begun to try and


tackle that. Some ideas from Iain Duncan Smith and Steve Webb, I


think Universal Credit are an attempt to move us back to this.


One of the reasons it has been slowed up is it has been


persistently opposed by Labour in the House of Commons. There is a


change coming. When you change there are some uncomfortable


moments. Individuals will get caught out. I am clear the


proposition is put forward now where they will fundamentally


change this system that you want and everybody else here has sought


as well. I think the idea of a benefit system is valid and no-one


would argue with that. I think the idea about poverty and the


principals of poverty has been skewed. If people can afford to go


out drinking and buy cigarettes and have Sky Television, the idea of


poverty has changed in our country. APPLAUSE


Do you agree with that Justine Greening?


I think, in many respects, I think what you say is correct.


Actually we have introduced the Universal Credit. That is coming in,


precisely to address the point the man made at the back - work has to


pay. At the moment we have a welfare system where it does not


too often. Also, in my experience as an constituency MP, it is about


complexity. It got so complicated that many of my constituents had no


idea what they were and were not entitled to. So, they had no


understanding of how to navigate their way through the benefit


system either. It got out of whack. So the first thing to do is bring


in a welfare cap, so that we actually put an upper limit on how


much people can get in welfare, which is fair. Make sure we make


sure that work does always pay and there is a transition which will go


through. Let's put some money into that transition process, so for the


people who will see a change of benefit, there is some support


there as we go through the process. It is a big change. It massively


matters because the final point is we have to have a welfare system


that people buy into. At some point we lost that and we have to get it


Tony mentioned about national insurance. The figure of over a


million people in this country having not worked for ten years or


more, that's staggering. At the same time we have had immigration


going up exso there have been jobs but obviously some people do not


want to take up the jobs. APPLAUSE


There's another point about the national insurance system. It's


been mentioned several times sofar which is that people who've been


paying into the national insurance contributions for many years are


rightly very upset that they are now being told that whatever it is


they knead in terms of benefits or pensions might not be available


because frankly there is no money any more. That's because the


Government's spent that money at the time. They didn't establish a


fund with investments in it. I think something that would be good


for us all is if Governments in relation to certain things like


pensions had to put investments in to a fund and so that this couldn't


happen in future. It would also hopefully, apart from making sure


you had contributed your pension would be there when you needed it,


would stop people promising things that wouldn't come up in their


lifetime. Tessa Jowell? I'm really worried that we have now a million


young people in our country who're out of work and we all know that if


young people don't get the habit of working, it becomes progressively


more difficult to get them into work and there's a sense of


hopelessness about that. One of the proposals that we've put forward is


a tax on bankers' bonuses to raise �2 billion in order to get more


than 120,000 young people every year into work. That's a very


constructive, positive and specific proposal that will go a long way to


building a long-term solution in response to what I was saying


earlier to you, Julie. OK. Another question, from Tom


Danaher, please? Is the sudden urgency about House


of Lords reform a way of keeping the Liberal Democrats quiet in the


coalition? The sudden urgency about the House of Lords reform?!


APPLAUSE Paddy Ashdown? Well, if you call


asking for House of Lords reform for 100 years urgency, sudden


urgency, then I suppose it is, Tom. Look, let's see if we can make one


or two points quickly - better make them quickly - the first is, is


this a priority. It is a prayerty. You think you have an economic


crisis in the western democracy, there is a desperate crisis growing


up separating Government from Government. You have a second


chamber in this country in which in order to get into the House of


Lords you have got to be a friend of the Prime Minister or your great,


great grandmother had to slaep with the King. Now, in a modern


democracy, sorry, call me old- fashioned but I actually believe


that the principle of democracy is those who make the people's laws


are the people's representatives. I don't think it's acceptable in the


modern democracy like ours to have membership of the House of Lords


based on the fact that you have the Prime Minister's approval or you


are the long-term descendant of an aristocratic lady of uncertain


virtue in the past. We have to try and make our democracy now a


genuine democracy. Young men go out to fight, young British soldiers


for democracy to die and to kill others and yet we don't have a


proper democracy in this country. Now, those who say it's not a


priority, I think that's the most ridiculous excuse there is. Even


leaving aside the democratic crisis for the moment. Take a look back,


when this country was struggling for its very survival, when person


putting troops across the Normandy beaches, the House of Commons was


still able to discuss the better education Act. We should do it! If


we allow a system to continue of pat Ronage in the second chamber


where the second chamber does not do its job? Holding the government


to account, when we have far too weak a House of Commons, the only


thing that will be damaged is our democracy and the only thing that


will continue to grow is the gap which is already dangerous between


Government and Government in this country. This needs to be done and


needs to be done now. APPLAUSE


Tessa Jowell, the accusation against Labour is you were all for


it at the election but now you are not doing the right thing to get it


through, you are not insisting on a timetable for it so that it will


actually happen, you are making mischief with this to disturb the


coalition? No, I mean that's not true. Let me just begin by saying...


In what sense is it not true because you are not doing it, are


you? Nobody's raised House of Lords reform with me on the doorstep but


we need a better Parliament than we have. And so yes we should reform


the House of Lords, we should have an elected House of Lords and we


should have the legislation properly scrutinised. There are


about 1,000 questions that have not been answered by the proposals that


have been published, so we'll support the Bill when it's


introduced... 1,000 questions? least. We'll support the Bill.


There are 845 members of the House of Lords so they've all got at


least a question each. We'll support the Bill when it comes


before Parliament at the beginning of July but we will also to make


sure - make sure that major constitutional change has the


opportunity of being properly scrutinised. We'll also put down


amendments calling for a referendum because we, you know, it's a


convention in this country that we have referenda where there's a


major constitutional change to our country and I think, as my party


thinks, that people should be asked their view on that.


You, Sir? I would like to point out the fact that within the House of


Lords, the positions have also been given to experts, the best in their


field. Mr Ashdown's comment implies that what little progress had been


made is completely pointless, but progress, however little, has been


made. There does need to be reform but it needs to be far more radical.


The current House is a way for people to extend their career and


get a nice cup of tea. It needs to be replaced by a House for the


people. If there can be a jury of 12 ordinary people choose on


someone's life, I think there should be a House for general


people to sit and oversee and bring politicians to account when they


don't doe what they've been voted to do.


Terry Smith? I would tend towards that gentleman's comment which is


to say that I would suggest a much simpler reform of the House of


Lords which is if there is a referendum, I hope this question is


included which is that it's an an act row ni-sm, why not abolish it.


Just have one House? Yes. I think you need a second chamber to lack


at the Bills that the House of Commons is bringing forward, but I


agree, I think it's time to get on with this. I think if you had a


blank piece of paper and proposed what we'd got now, people would say


that's totally unacceptable, it's based on who you know, your birth


and the gentleman's right, there is a role in the House of Lords going


forward for experts and that's why we are proposing 80% should be


elected but 20% should still be apointed and I hope we can really


keep all those people that bring some real expertise. It's time to


get on with this. We've talked about it for a very long time. I


think we've ended up almost in the worst of all worlds where at least


there was some randomness almost with hereditary peers, there's none


know -- none now. It's who you know and to some extent how much money


you have got. It's unacceptable. My ask from Tessa would be don't vote


against this programme motion which will mean we could end up clogging


up the House of Commons, people have other priorities they want us


to work on too. Let's get on with this... The programme motion is the


timetable? How much time we spend and we have pencilled in a lot, so


let's get on with this and get it through and let's come back to


everything else that people need sorting out in this country. What


about the 100 or so Conservatives who don't want it? Well, I respect


their... Will you win them round? respect their Points of View, I


think we'll win many round, I just disagree with them and I think many


of them who were there in 2005 in the last Parliament like me voted


for an 80% elected chamber so. Now is the time to crack on, make this


change and then we'll have a much stronger second chamber and I think


it will do what that gentleman wants which is it will be for


people again which it should be. OK. The woman in green, then you,


Sir. If you have two Houses which have been elected, what happens


within they don't agree? Quite right, a good point. Fundamental


question. A key question. That's why in this Bill we are bringing


forward it's clear that ultimately the House of Commons has the final


say. We've got the Parliament Act at the moment which is, if you like,


how we regulate it right now under the current system, but we'll make


sure we keep that in place so we make sure that isn't the gridlock.


That was a major complaint about the gridlock legislation. The House


of Commons has the final say. heard from the last question that


the country's in deep economic mire, so what practical benefit will the


man in the street deprive from a reform? Do you think there's any


point in it? Absolutely not. Tony Robinson? I beg your pardon, sorry,


David. If you would have had an eelected second chamber, you would


not have had an Iraq war or the poll tax. Tony Robinson? There is a


terribly important principal at stake here which is that those who


write the law ought to be elected by people who live under the law.


It's feeling to me like a principal that goes back to Magna Carta and


the fact that we haven't addressed that seems daft. We have all three


leaders agreeing that we should do some reform. OK, I agree with you,


it's not going to be the perfect reform, it never is going to be the


refect reform, but we've got all three leaders agreeing with it, so


let's go ahead and bite the bullet. Some people say it's the wrong time.


That's the argument that's always levelled. For 100 years people have


been saying it's a good idea but it's not the right time. People say


it's expensive, but if we cut down from 90 representatives to 300 and


they won't get as much money as they get, that would be a non-


starter. I have a caveat. I don't want to see us move from unelected


peers to political cronies. We've got to make really sure that the


system that's put in place doesn't guarantee that the leader of the


party in Government and the Leader of the Opposition can deluf that.


But please -- deliver that. But please, I ask the representatives


of all three political parties, go with this, don't scupper it for


short-term political advantage, please.


Before we finish this, Paddy Ashdown made an interesting point


that I would like to put to the politicians of the other two


parties. He says there would have been no Iraq war if there had been


an elected chamber and he says there would have been no poll tax.


Do you agree? No, I don't agree with either of those assertions.


Why has he got it wrong? Well, I mean I think that's... I don't know


what the evidence is for that quite honestly. Paddy was against the


Iraq war. OK. Be brief? I'll be as brief as I can. The House of


Commons is the executive's poodle and allows the executive to get


away with doing stupid things. If you had a second chamber acting as


a check and balance, those two issues would have been debated


fully and, in my view, none would have got through. You said the


House of Commons has ultimate praim si? But if the House of Lords force


add debate and expressed a democratic view, my view is there


is a... I can't prove it to you but there's a high probability that's


the case. The Tories might have been grateful if there was no poll


tax? Who knows. They rebelled a lot when the Thatcher Government was in


power. It's time to get on with this. The final point I make is


that it's quite South East centric at the moment, the House of Lords,


because of the whole network, if you like, that helps create it. I


think it's time to have it generally more representative of


our country as a whole. Get away from Putney. Our hour is up now, we


have to stop. We'll be in Derby next week, we are not South East


centric by any means. Only panel we'll have Labour's former Home


Secretary, Alan Johnston, so if you would like to come to the last


Question Time of this run and put questions to our panel, you can do


so by applying on the website. You can also call us. Thank you all


David Dimbleby chairs Question Time from Luton. On the panel: Transport Secretary Justine Greening MP, Shadow Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell MP, former leader of the Liberal Democrats Paddy Ashdown, comic actor & broadcaster Tony Robinson and the businessman Terry Smith, chief executive of the City brokerage Tullett Prebon.

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