11/10/2012 Question Time


David Dimbleby chairs Question Time from Birmingham. Panellists include Grant Shapps MP, Caroline Flint MP, Simon Hughes MP, poet Benjamin Zephaniah and columnist Cristina Odone.

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By good evening. Question Time tonight is in Birmingham. -- good


evening. And a big welcome to our audience


and to our panel, Conservative Party chairman, Grant Shapps,


shadow energy secretary, Caroline Flint, deputy leader of the Liberal


Democrats, Simon Hughes, Daily Telegraph columnist, Christina


Odone. And poet and author, Thank you. Our first question from


Des Michael Duff. Is the BBC's reputation about to be blown away


by the Jimmy Saville debacle? the BBC's reputation about to be


blown away by the Jimmy Saville debacle? Grant Shapps. This has


been very, very concerning in the last week or two as this has come


out. What is incredible is that this is something which appears to


have taken place not just over the last few years, but over four


decades, which means a lot of people must have been aware. And


now it turns out there are 30 cases the police have said have come


forward. Day-by-day, it seems unimaginable that people within the


BBC did not know. There was that Newsnight report put together, but


not dead, apparently because there was about to be a programme with


three separate airings of a programme paying tribute to Jimmy


Saville's life. -- it was not dead. I think the BBC knows there are


questions to be answered. That is why the chairman, Chris Patten,


came out yesterday, fairly firmly saying that somebody independent


should be appointed to look at this. Absolutely agree that what happens


it is to have been absolutely outrageous. -- what happened.


are the issues for the BBC's reputation? Is it the broadcast of


the celebratory programmes about Jimmy Saville when they knew that


Newsnight had been interviewing people who alleged they had been


abused? Or is it that nobody within the BBC over 40 years of the said,


I think something is going wrong? think it is disturbing when you


hear the number of people who have come forward from within and


outside the BBC and have said, I knew something, I suspected


something, or why was one of the victims in this. I think it is


particularly disturbing that a programme paying tribute, a three-


part programme, went out, three different programmes, just last


Christmas, wasn't it, after it was already known that something was


wrong, enough to have had a serious Newsnight programme made about it,


and enough to have raised serious concerns. I think we need to know


who knew what and when, and there are definitely questions that


needed answering. Christina Odone. One of the biggest shocks is that


it happened at the heart of the liberal establishment, in the


hallowed halls of the BBC, which is cherished and trusted and respected.


We are so comfortable and cosy with the BBC that we call her auntie. I


think there were two levels of trust betrayed. One was by Jimmy


Saville and his victims, young, under-age girls and I think one boy.


But also us, the licence fee payers. And we feel we have been taken for


a ride. And I think one of the interesting things is that BBC


programme makers were very vicious and thorough in their condemnation


of the Catholic church when they have their own gross child abuse


scandals. And I think in fact what we could do is for the BBC to learn


from the way that the Catholic Church mishandled its dealings of


the child abuse cover-up, and we should have a very prompt and


independent investigation. We should have a very public apology,


not only by Chris Patten but by a the director general of the BBC.


And we should have compensation for the victims, and a thorough clean-


up of what looks like very filthy practices. And do you think that is


happening, or do you think the BBC is dragging its feet? I think it


has dragged its feet. Already we can say we should have already had


a thorough clean-up of what has happened. The the question I have


is, it is all well and good for the BBC with Jimmy Saville. What is the


reputation of the various charities that he was associated with? Surely


they will be tarnished with the same brush. Will there be something


dumb thugs something done by which their charities Association can be


moved away, because they'd may well lose donations because of


association with him. Do you think it was a surprise to the hospitals


where he worked? Without a doubt. In the back row. Should he not


immediately lose his title? Should he lose his title? Benjamin


Zephaniah. I think they are considering taking the title from


him. I must say, when the story first broke, this is a bit of a


confession. I jumped off the city and I said, I knew it. Seriously. I


saw the documentary where somebody asked him about his feelings, and


he had no feelings for anybody. They asked him if he could love


anybody and he said, What Is Love? He had no emotional intelligence at


all. He did not seem to care about anybody. I remember thinking, that


is a very dangerous person. But it was a private thought and I could


never have said that. He was raising millions for charities. I


remember first going into the Catholic Herald and being told,


there is this saint called Jimmy. And they will all bowled over by


how brilliant he was, -- they were all bowled over. How he was


tireless in his devotion to charities, especially charities


dealing with young children. I have to say, I went through the


children's homes. I knew kids who were abused. I never was. But at


night I had to sometimes try to stop children from getting out of


bed in the middle of the night and going to meet members of staff. And


I remember a kid crying in front of me, begging me to let him go to be


abused because he was so scared. And this addresses the point you


have just raised. When we put people on a pedestal, and we beat


them up so much, and Jimmy Saville was basically the BBC man through


and through. They just become untouchable. And they can do good


things in the community. Many people who abuse children do good


things in the community. They do football, church, all of those


things, to have access to these young people. So we put them on a


pedestal and they become untouchable. Last night, my mother


said, I don't believe anything like this about Jimmy Saville, I think


he is a good man because of the good things he has done. What about


the BBC's reputation? I remember in the 1980s going into an office in


the BBC. If I could remember the person, I would say. This person


was waiting to get a secretary. I said, what is she like? He said, I


do not care, as long as she has big breasts. There was a culture at the


time that allow that kind of thing and they just got away with it.


the second row from the back. think there is something of a nasty


taste to be left by the fact that if this investigation is to be


pursued, basically we live in a society where everybody remains


innocent until proven guilty and has the right to be tried in a


court of law, that if the BBC is going to be seen to be supporting


this, it is going to set a precedent to bring postern has


convictions and allegations against other people have passed away, and


the trauma that will cause to their families. -- posthumous convictions.


It is not like he will be tried in a court of law because he is dead.


The problem is every single day there are more people coming


forward with things they witnessed, or happened to them. I do not think


we can avoid that, or ignore it. As far as the reputation of the BBC,


there are two aspects. One, still to get to the bottom of why the


Newsnight report was squashed and the reasons for that. The second


part of it is about looking at the BBC as an institution, and


reflecting on whether there is more they should have done during that


period. I am not just talking about Jimmy Saville. Liz Kershaw, the


radio DJ, recounted that when she was broadcasting, male colleagues


would literally come to her and put their hands on her breasts while


she was broadcasting and could do nothing about it. When she raised


it, she was told, that is part of what it is like, that is just what


you have to put up with. There is an issue about addressing that.


Wider in the BBC, it is recognising about when we put people on a


pedestal. But also within institutions, whether a church


institution, school, children's home, politics, the media,


hospitals, wherever, how do we protect the most vulnerable in


those institutions? And we don't allow the powerful to basically


take complete liberties with the power that they have got. I think


that is important. To bring it up to date, let's not believe this is


something in the past. We have seen those young girls who were groomed


into prostitution, and they raised their voice and the police did not


listen to them, people did not listen in the community. Every day,


they are women and men facing sexual harassment at work in


different situations and often they are fearful of saying anything


because they think they will be ridiculed and told they are too


politically correct. It is here today. Maybe not the same as in the


1980s, but it is here today, people feeling powerless when they are in


a position where people more powerful than them keep them from


raising their voice. We also have to question why so few


people came forward. What does it say about society that they stayed


silent for so long? And if they did come for, why were they not


listened to? Simon Hughes. extraordinary thing is that


apparently nobody went to the police over 40 years. I find that


almost unbelievable. If somebody ever did go to the police and that


comes up, that raises another set of really serious issues. Of course,


there is a BBC issue, because a public broadcaster has an


obligation to warn of the people who come to work for it and who, as


visitors, to make sure that they are respected and not abused. -- it


has a responsibility to all of the people. It is not going to be


hampered in this case by a criminal prosecution because the man is dead,


so they do not have to wait for the police, the CPS and all of these


people. So the BBC can get on with things. But I have one equally big


concern. Jimmy Saville appeared to go into hospital on a regular basis


and other public sector institutions where there were


honourable people. That, for me, is as worrying, that he apparently


went about his illegal and disgraceful business there, and of


their there were not complaints made, pursued or followed up. And


the one place where everybody in this room would want people to be


secured are the children's homes and the hospitals in our country,


run by the state. We have to make sure schools and hospitals are


safeguarded institutions. If they have failed, there is a serious


issue about Leeds hospital, Stoke Somebody raised the point about the


knighthood. Those expire when someone dies. I would be in favour


of the forfeiture committee taking a close look at this because it


cannot be right but somebody apparently keeps the title in front


of their name when this is the reality of their lives. A couple


more brief points. I like solutions rather than problems, so how do we


move on and make sure this does not happen again? I think Jimmy


Saville's celebrity status is a problem. He managed to get into


these places and do this under that umbrella. I think the public sector


needs support in ensuring that no matter what state as a person has,


with any manager, is a liberty, a footballer, that they have the


support to be able to whistle blower and talk and people will


believe them. One more point. watching something on the BBC this


morning, an interview with a lady that was saying, making an


allegation against him. She said she told her parents and they shrug


it off, he would not do that. I think there are serious issues with


parents saying to a child that that would not happen. Something needs


We followed the example of David Cameron in one thing and we've


Cameron in one thing and we've started tweeting this week, like he


says he has. We now have a Twitter panellist.


Tonight the columnist is Toby Young. If you do tweet, you will know what


I'm talking about. If you don't, you can remain the blissful


ignorance. Another question, from ignorance. Another question, from


Laura Howard, please. Is George Osborne discriminating against the


under 25s with his proposal to remove housing benefits? Benjamin


Zephaniah, is it unwarranted discrimination? I think it is


discrimination and very dangerous. What happens when you take away the


benefit of these people. You are going to push them back into the


homes where some were abused, you are going to push them on to the


street. We are just forcing them to go into situations which they don't


want to go in. Nobody wants, well, I believe very few people are


people that want to just live off benefits for the sake of it. Young


people, especially now, need a hand. We can't keep putting pressure on


them to go out and get jobs, when there are no jobs. You can't push


people into the swimming pool when you have taken the water out of the


swimming pool. APPLAUSE What the Government was trying to do was


save �1.8 billion I think in housing benefit, and this was one


of the ways of doing it. Grant Shapps. This is a proposal for the


future. It is not something for right now. This is as a result of


the difficult spending environment, there needs to be savings in future.


Sorry, does it make it different that it is for the future? No, it


is that figure is not now, it is for the future, �10 million from


the benefits bill. The benefits and pension is �200 billion. One pound


in three that the Government spends in this country. It is an enormous


amount and can't go unchecked forever there. Has to come a point


where if you are a young person and you have studied and you are


probably now at home living back at home and you're working, you are


probably saving up for that first flat. You are probably not going to


do it by the time you are 25. What we are saying is if you are not in


work you shouldn't be in an advantage because you are on


welfare rather than in work. Somebody has to pick up the tab for


this and it's the taxpayer who is having to pick up the tab for


taxpayers for people who have to live at home and carry on working.


There'll be exemptions, people who've come out of care and people


with other troubled backgrounds will be exempt. But I do think it


is right on the balance of fairness to all, that we do check the


welfare bill and don't let it rise inexorably. Giving charitable aid,


charity should begin at home. We need to look at the elderly, the


aged, and instead of trying to take money away from them. Look at what


we are spending overseas. Not everybody else jumps up and sends


their troops abroad or donates tens of billions. Are you against any


cuts in the welfare bill? We need to be prudent at the moment,


because of the economic state. However, it seems to be we are


always penalising those with the least amount, and that's wrong.


APPLAUSE OK. Can I go back to Grant Shapps and say how he thinks it is


fair that my grandparents and parents have paid tax all their


lives it is not against me not to be allowed to have benefits when a


European family from the EU can have those same benefits but I'm


having mine taken from me? How is that not discrimination? APPLAUSE


My view is this should be fair on everyone. On the aid budget point,


I think it is �10 billion. The welfare budget is �200 billion.


It's a huge budget and it has gone up and up. We can't go on spending


�1 in �3 on welfare. I don't want you to be in a disadvantaged person.


A young person watching this probably can't afford to buy their


own house. This is about fairness to the taxpayer as a whole. Your


parents are having to go out and earn the money. We don't want to


put people in a better position when they don't work. The answer of


course is to have more people in work. That's why it is good that


unemployment has been falling in the last six months. Simon Hughes,


will the Liberal Democrats oppose this move that was announced at


conference? Grant made clear it is not a done deal across the


coalition. I, as proposed, would not agree to it. I'm very clear


about it, for the reasons that prompted the question. I have a


made who works for Centre Point, the charity working with young


single people who can't stay at home. I asked him for four figures


today. There are 385,000 youngsters under 25 claiming housing benefit.


17% are employed. They use it to top up their employment. If they


didn't have it, they probably couldn't afford to stay where they


are living and they would probably have to give up their work. On that


basis it seems unintelligent. 7% are sick or disabled, so they are


not going to be able to go to work and the money won't make any


difference. Half of them have dependent children. Are you really


saying that we should be depriving a 23-year-old mum of the money she


needs to keep the roof over the head of her two little ones? Lastly,


I'm for collecting more money from the people who are very well off in


this country. There are loads of people... APPLAUSE Who still have


most of the wealth. 1% of this country own about 15% of the wealth.


10% own half the wealth in this country. Come on, if we wanted a


society where we pay off our debts and cut the money, let's collect


money from people who can afford to pay, not take money from youngsters


who are struggling with all the other pressures and trying to bring


up their kids and survive. Do you think Nick Clegg will agree with


you and make this an issue, a dividing you? The coalition and


refuse? Nick does agree with me. Sorry, so the Liberal Democrats


phalanx in Government is going to say no? We are have not signed up


to cutting housing benefit. won't? I don't imagine for a moment


that we will. I will come back to you. Cristina Odone. I think Simon


is thinking that Nick is going to stand up to David in a way that he


didn't over university fees. APPLAUSE I can't quite see that


that one going. But I also think another thing. I think most young


people are motivated by a sense of fairness rather than a sense of


entitlement. I do agree that it is very hard to be one of the 3


million graduates who are forced to go back and live at home, even


though they are working really hard, and to know that there's 210,000


people between 16 and 24 who automatically got a council home. I


think that is very unfair. Cristina, they don't automatically get a


council home. They are automatically eligible. No. You are


wrong. Single people... I did my homework. Single young adults are


not automatically eligible for a council authority in any authority


in England. There are lots of automatic eligibility. One of the


interesting things is that I've got friends who are between 16 and 24.


Most of them my stepson's friends, and they are saying this is not


fair. They are also saying, I don't think I'm entitled to have a home


of my own the moment I come out of university. Lots and lots of kids


are prepared to share rooms, to go back home and live with mum and dad.


You're only entitled to the money on a shared room basis up to the


age of 35. Honestly, if you are single. Caroline Flint? I'm afraid


this is another one of those ill thought through policies on a back


of an envelope which is about disguising the fact that their


economic plan is failing. APPLAUSE They are having to find �10 billion


to plug the gap their deficit plan, because the truth is this year they


are having to borrow 22% more. That's about �800 a second more


borrowing, because it is failing. They've restricted growth. That's


going down to something like minus 0.4% for 2012, the IMF announced


that. Clearly with 1 million young people unemployed, if they think


this is the answer, it is a joke. As Benjamin said, let's talk about


people rather than statistics. An awful lot of these young people


have been in situations where they've come out of the care system


or are leaving abusive situations at home. A large number are young


parents. Some of them are young people who've got on their bike and


moved away from home to find work, but because the work is so lowly


paid they are having to get supplement with housing benefit is.


Issue here shnot this policy. It is to look at the reasons why young


people, whether they are parents, young people who've left for work,


need housing benefit. Give them the help to get into work and not rely


on housing benefit. That's the answer. Both Caroline and I have


been Housing Ministers at different times. One of the things that


happened under the previous administration, housing benefit


itself, the bill itself, doubled. The working poor happened to claim


it. Up to �21 billion. I hear what you are saying, that you don't like


this future example of how it could be trimmed. But the question is,


when are you going to agree with even 1 penny off the deficit?


That's ridiculous. We said we would halve the deficit over this


Parliament and that would include a 12% cut in policing, not 20%. Cuts


in the education budget and elsewhere. The truth is your plan


by going too far too fast has restricted the economy. You are


having to borrow more. You are not way on target. We would be rattling


like Greece if today if we carried on. I think again the Government is


penalising the most vulnerable, which is the young people. APPLAUSE


If you have a deficit from the benefit system you should go back


to the bankers and get our money back from them. Your Government put


us into this situation. Shouldn't we sort out the


unemployment figures before talking about decreasing the welfare


budget? How do you mean by sort out? Unemployment figures are far


too high to even consider dropping the welfare budget. We've got


record unemployment. Why don't we try to get people back into work


before taking their benefits away from them without any jobs?


APPLAUSE Welfare takes up a lot of spending in the UK at the moment,


so it does need to be reviewed, but a lot of people in this country


think that those on benefits just sit at home and don't need them.


But a large majority of people in this country do need benefits.


There should be an education. There's a small minority, there's


not the jobs out from, so unemployment does need to be looked


at before spending. A lot of people think we can't good out to work, it


is better off to get benefits, because that will pay more than the


jobs are paying out there. Following from that man's point,


you need to target unemployment before you target the cutting


spending og welfare. But you also need to make sure that the system


doesn't mean that it is better for you not to work. You earn more if


you don't work than if you work. That is the problem. I definitely


agree with that. It is a social thing as well there. Needs to be


education with your parents. If your parents are staying at home


and giving the impression that it is better to stay at home because


you will earn more, there needs to be education there. And legislation


in schools and things where people need to be more aware of this.


want to go to another member of the audience. You keep on mentioning


that we are all in this together and let's make things fair. So


let's start moving to the other end. Mention the mansion tax. Please


mention the things about covering up the loophole tax avoidance.


Let's look at the other end of address issue, where we can find


money and not just focusing on the vulnerable end, the welfare end.


Grant Shapps? I agree with you. Simon mentioned how much the


wealthy are paid, the top 1% of earners account for almost 30% of


all income tax receipts in this country. I absolutely agree with


you. Those with the broadest shoulders should bear the largest


contribution. You are giving millionaires a �40,000 tax rebate.


The mansion tax. This is what's happening. The mansion tax I think


would quickly become a homes tax. It boo quickly turn into ordinary


homes. It will require the rebanding of everybody's homes.


Anyone who has saved hard and worked hard all their lives will


suddenly be called having a mansion. It would become a homes tax. As


soon as the Inspector gets there and revalues all the homes,


everyone watching this will find their homes would be rebanded into


paying more. I do agree with you that the wealthiest need to pay the


most. They are. Under this Government. Even under the last


Budget they ended up paying over �1300 more as a result. While 2


million people have taken out of tax entirely and 24 million people


are paying less tax as a result of that increase in the tax-free


The system does not encourage responsibility. A lot of people


that I was a school with had a child and got house immediately. At


the end of the day, it is out of my pocket, so why should we continue


I have no truck with people who think that being on benefits when


they are of working age is a choice they should be able to make for


life. It is why I said when I was a minister that when we were looking


at young people in social housing, or other housing but out of work,


we should focus on making sure they got training and education. But


also the carrot and stick to say, you have an obligation to find work.


I have no problem with that. What I have a problem with his with coming


up with a policy that already various Conservative ministers are


saying, we have to deal with this group, and it is unravelling the


day-by-day, as some answer to issues around welfare reform. It is


trying to find an answer to plug a gap in an economic plan which is


not working. Talking of welfare reform, I think we should focus on


things like fraud. In the last year of the Labour Government, we had


the highest success rate in detecting fraud in the benefits


system. It is only right to do that, just like we should deal with the


fraud at the top of society by bankers and elsewhere. Before we go


on, Simon Hughes, do you accept that the mansion tax is a dead duck,


now do you have heard what Grant Shapps and George Osborne said at


the conference? It looks as if the Tories are not going to agree. We


think it is a good policy because houses do not move. You can tax


them fairly quickly. You are going to end up agreeing on less and less


as the parliament goes on. Coalition, by definition, is a


coming together of different parties. We have agreed on lots of


good things. We agreed on taking lots of people out of tax. We


agreed on increases to the state pension, really important. There


are things we disagree on. I want more wealth taxes, people to pay a


mansion tax. But that does not mean to say, to pick up the gentleman at


the back, or that I do not want people who are striving to be


encouraged. My mum and dad married on no money in the bank at all. My


dad got up at 4am to going brew beer, he was ace driver. Thug he


was striving. My uncle ran a chemist's shop, he got up every


morning and ran his own business all his life to make sure he had an


income for him and his daughters and his wife. I am certain we do


not want to DIS incentivise people for working instead of not working.


If you cannot help youngsters, who may not have run at home, may have


fallen out of their parents. There are all sorts of reasons why kids


cannot be at home. If you do not hold them, you are more likely to


have a generation that do not work. The if you show them compassion,


you make them strive and turn them into a success and have them not on


the dole. I am clear about that. You in the T-shirt. Briefly.


think there is a large focus on the top earners being taxed and that is


correct and needs to be addressed 100%. But there is a point that has


been sadly ignored, although it might be unpopular with some people.


There is a large percentage of his country that works in trade and


other occupations that is consistently paid in cash.


Consistently. And degeneration of funds that could be generated from


that sector itself is enormous. -- the generation. And the fact that


it is ignored it, and we are cutting housing for young people,


think it is nonsense. Why is it not addressed? And you, sir. Why are


young people, just starting out in life, being turned into the biggest


victims of this financial crisis? The changes to tuition fees, the


removal of the EMA, the potential threat to working tax credit. These


are talented, brilliant young people feeling absolutely hopeless.


There is that 17% that Simon mention, those that are in work who


are young who could, if they lose housing benefit, become even more


hopeless. They are those striving for work who, without housing


benefit, could become even more hopeless. There is a hopeless


generation already and the ironic thing is that it was not their


greed and carelessness that put us in his place in the first place.


Where is it written that at the age of 24 you should have your own


flat? On the Continent, nobody, but nobody dreams of that, except for


the children of millionaires. And certainly not at the expense of the


state. In fact, we have just come back from Rome, where there was a


whole street of cars parked with newspaper on the cars because these


were young people having it off, because at home they have mum and


dad. And that is what happens. Having what off? They cannot have a


private life at home because they are living with their parents, and


that is taken completely for granted. Gopinath! Enough,


I know, I have seen that. Seriously, as the lay person on here, it is


interesting listening to everybody bandying figures about. But, Grant


Shapps, you have to understand that no matter how you spinet, in this


week of your conference, to young people out there, the world looks


exactly like that man was saying. The young people are being bashed,


and they did not have anything at all to do with this economic crisis.


I would say one thing to those young people, we are on the side of


the vast majority of young people who are working hard and try to get


on in life. They need a break and I think this is the most important


issue for them. We need a system which is fair to everybody, not


just some. Hillary could win as a radical suggestion that might


change things. Should Boris Johnson challenge David Cameron for the


leadership of the Tory party? Benjamin Zephaniah. Would that


changed everything? Do you see any of Boris Johnson? I think not. I


cannot believe I am thinking about who I would prefer to lead the Tory


party. Boris Johnson said the Chinese... Thinking about our


relationship with people abroad. He said the Chinese have no culture.


This ancient culture, that goes back for thousands of years, and


their culture is based on copying Western culture. He calls black


people pick enemies. He said the problem with Africa is that the


British are not there. He may seem like a buffoon, a clown, but he is


a very, very dangerous person, in my honest opinion. In London, there


was an annual festival called Respect, which is bringing young


people together with music and poetry and everything else. One of


the first things he did when he got into London was to stop it. He did


not want to see that kind of unity. I heard somebody in the Tory


conference, a Tory supporter, I think, that really is worth


repeating. He said, could you trust Boris with his finger on the


nuclear button? It is all right for a joke, but could you trust him


with the lives of everybody in Western Europe? I think not.


somebody who has to share eight- page with Boris Johnson in the


Daily Telegraph on Mondays, I have to say, even I have to look at his


column before I look at mine, because he is that witty, that


funny, that brilliant. Would I trust him? Forget the finger on the


thing. Would I trust him in a cab, which I trust him... Would die


trust him to be on time? -- would I trust him? He is a force of nature.


I think we would never be bored. We would always be on the edge of our


seats. We would be laughing a lot. We would be the laughing stock of


the world. The Olympics were a pretty impressive event. And Boris


was the Mayor of London who made it happen. He did. The point about


this question, presumably, was that you saw the reception he got from


the Tories. He was a rock star. question is, would the Tory party


do better under Boris Johnson as leader? In other words, should he


challenge for the sake of the party? No, I think because the Tory


party is going through one of the most difficult of economic times,


they should stick to their present leader, not have the kind of


factionalism, the kind of civil war that would be entailed in a Boris


opposition. It is a shame, but let's see what happens next time


around. Because the Tory party is so messed-up, Boris looks exotic.


Is that what you meant? I do not think they should be a change at


the moment. I agree with Christina Odone. I think Boris Johnson is


riding on the crest of a wave, in view of the success of the Olympics.


I actually think Boris mentioned Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Tessa


Jowell, as well as others, in terms of the success of the Olympics, so


I do not think you can give it all to Boris on that one. He was


generous. He actually was generous in terms of all the people who took


part to make the Olympics are a success. Importantly, I would


imagine that there is part of me that things when people like Boris,


long, you should either put up or shut up, basically, in terms of his


challenge. He is clearly a thorn in David Cameron's side. But I think


the politics of this, demonstrated this week at the Conservative


conference, is that Boris is about being the messenger for more right-


wing policies. And what happens in terms of the Tory party when Boris


appears, Cameron has to start moving more and more to the right,


to feed that need within the Conservative Party. And that is why


this week we saw a lot of the things that David Cameron talked


about when he was opposition leader, to get into the centre ground, to


take the nasty out of conservatism, that was very much given a low


profile against other policies like the one we have just discussed, to


show that they are on the right of British politics. Boris, David


Cameron, to be honest they both represent a type of politics which


I do not think is good for Britain. Isn't this whole saga just making


fun of a whole idea of a mayor? Many places around the country have


been voting on a mayor. Is it just the position to put the old


buffoons school friend, or is it away to get into parliament? It is


not actually a place anyone would aspire to. You do not sound


convinced. Well, I did think so, but this saga has changed it all


around. I think the only way the


Conservative Party would get back in in 2015 is to have Boris, and


maybe a zip wire straight into Downing Street. The woman in the


centre. Do you think Boris Johnson would want the job as Prime


Minister? Grant Shapps. Can you answer the question? It is


impossible to know what Boris thinks. Why? Because he comes up


with lots of different views. disagree with the gentleman who was


not sure about the job of the mayor. The position is fabulously


successful. People would have seen the Boris bikes everywhere, they


would have seen that he has done things for London, got rid of the


ridiculous bendy bus that used to block every road. We do not want a


eulogy to Boris Johnson. He might actually challenge you for the


leadership one day, more to the point. Now, now! Do not say that to


me. I know it is an embarrassing thing to be tipped to do, but you


are one of those tipped as a potential leader. Let me stick with


the question for a moment. Not too long. His term runs until 2016. He


has said he will see out the term. I want to trade a couple of quotes


from Boris. My favourite one is one where he says, there is no such


thing as disasters, only opportunities, and each opportunity


is a fresh opportunity for renewed Right! I think his sense of humour


is terrible. I canned understand why a group - I don't know how many


people are in the Tory conference, found that mop, brush thing funny.


If that was left to market forces and he was in a comedy club...


been to hundreds of party conferences and the fourth or fifth


day you will laugh at anything. Simon Hughes? No, he shouldn't


challenge, is the short answer to your question. Look, I understand


why Boris is so important to the Tory Party. They want won an


election outright since 1992, which they won with Sir John Major. Not


quite the same. But you haven't won one for 85 years. No, that's true,


but we are on the way there. It takes time. I can see why the


Tories think anything that excites, but no. The nuclear button is the


bottom line question. Yes he's made a contribution in London, but


bluntly for the Olympics it was other people - Tessa Jowell, Seb


Coe, a range of people. He has to serve out his term. My judgment is


will he deliver the affordable housing that my constituents want


in London? Will he honour the promise before the election that no


police station will close? I will judge him on his actions, not his


speeches. He is very funny, it is light relief for the Tory Party


conference, but in my view he is not material for the leader of the


party. Des pit what Benjamin said, the quotation or -- despite what


Benjamin said, the quotation, should he be considered as Prime


Minister or the next Mayor of London, the remarks he made about


the Chinese. You don't think he should be? What do you think?


think one of the reasons bore sis so well liked is he is not part of


the coalition and is able to speak his mind freely and challenge what


the Government propose. Tinge problem with Boris, if you like, is


also that he does have this sort of approach that is almost the anti-


politician's politician. I can see that. And I can see, I watched him


this week on the TV, and I could see how he could touch the right


buttons and come off almost like the Peter Ustinov of politics, for


those hof you who are old enough to remember him. We should not


underestimate Boris and his political philosophy. It is very


right-wing. We shouldn't be lulled into a false sense of security that


this guy with a bumbling persona, quite amusing on occasion, even


though Benjamin doesn't think. So he has some pretty extreme right-


wing views. He is very keen on supporting the bankers. So you


would rather have Michael Green? Again we are into fantasy politics.


I also think that if it got down to seriously voting for him as Prime


Minister, outside the M25 I don't think he would have that much


popularity, in Yorkshire or Birmingham. APPLAUSE


If we had Michael Green, alias Grant Shapps as Prime Minister, I'm


told we could give him $200 to buy software and we would make $20,000


in 20 days or get our money back. You shouldn't believe everything


you right -- read. I've read in the last few weeks I am a Jehovah's


Witness. I'm too late to give you $200. It is closed. How many people


did you have to pay back and how many made $20,000? For viewers who


are not aware, before I was in politics, I used to write business


publications under the pen name Michael Green. I always remembered


what the slogan vote blue get green really means. Now we all know it.


Are you really rich? No. Benjamin, my wife has spent the last few


months asking me where this $28 million is hidden. Sadly we still


have to work to pay the mortgage each month. Sadly you had to pay


back so many $25 each months. find it interesting, they were


businessmanuals, advising people on how to run their businesses. I


understand when you are... You are running a business with an assumed


name. Hello, I'm running a business. Give me your money. Bye-bye.


must end with a serious question. Annie Sheen, please. Shouldn't the


abortion limit be a matter for the morality of individual women and


not Jeremy Hunt? APPLAUSE The new Health Secretary, who said


he personally favoured reducing the abortion limit to 12 weeks and the


Prime Minister saying he thought 22 instead of 24. The question, is


should this be a matter for the morality of individuals and not for


Jeremy Hunt? We had a number of people saying it shouldn't be a


matter for men at all. Caroline Flint. This issue is one of those


matters where there is usually a free vote in Parliament. I think


that's right. But I think at the heart of this issue is when does it


begin to matter that you override a woman's decision that she wants to


make over whether to continue a pregnancy or not? What worries me


about this discussion in the last week is that a lot of information


is put into the public domain that presents a picture that doesn't


bear any relation to reality. The truth is 91% of terminations or


abortions happen before 12 weeks. 7% between 13 and 19 and less than


1.5% between 20 and 24 weeks. Those that do take place over 20 weeks


are for a whole number of reasons, connected to young girls who come


forward or circumstances in terms of testing and screening. And also


matter that change that create a huge matter of concern to that


woman. I would say to the women in the audience and at home, this is


not an easy issue for any woman to take. What worries me in this


debate is an idea that women are casually applying to have a


termination. The other point on the science, this is really important,


because Jeremy Hunt said he felt the evidence suggested it should be


reduced to 12 weeks. The Royal College of Obstetricians and


gynaecologists, the royal college of nursing, the British Medical


Association, have reaffirmed what they said in 2008. There is no


scientific evidence to suggest that the viability of a foetus between


20 and 24 weeks has changed. There is no evidence that that has


changed. When we have these debates and it is puts into the public


domain in the way it is, that people are bandying around that


they know the evidence, particularly politicians, it does


undermine access to safe abortions and for women to choose. There


should be that option. APPLAUSE


The notion was that a foetus at an earlier age had a better chance of


surviving. I wand to ask should be should be should be, do you have a


view about what the - dish want to ask Annie Sheen, do you have a view


about what the limit should be? shouldn't change. I don't agree


with Jeremy Hunt. 24 weeks. I completely agree with Caroline. A


woman who decides to have an abortion at any time in her


pregnancy, it's a terrible thing to have to decide to do. We should


have a health policy that allows that breth of individual choice for


women. All the way up until what? don't work in the health profession.


Really my question was more about that it should be the woman's


choice and that the policy should reflect that. And that Jeremy Hunt


and other politicians shouldn't be politicising this when perhaps it


shouldn't need to be. We need to be brief. I think that unfortunately


politics does come into it, because we need a legal framework within


which to work the abortion line. I think that unlike Caroline, there


is plenty of medical, scientific breakthroughs that show us that a


foetus is viable between 20 and 24 weeks. That they survive at 20


weeks. There are thousand thousands of Britons alive who've not only


survived but thrived as premature babies who were born between 20 and


24 weeks. What are we saying about them? What's your view? My view is


that we should certainly review the law, because medical science has


shown us that the way it stands doesn't make sense. You are not


against abortion at all? As a Catholic I'm against abortion, but


as a citizen I do not expect the laws to reflect my religious views.


But I do think that the law should take into account medical science.


Benjamin Zephaniah? As a man I think I have, I should have no say


in the way that a woman chooses to deal with this issue, unless I am


attached to that woman. I have known a lot of women, quite a few


women who've had abortions. Never in the history of me have I seen a


woman celebrating, great, I've had an abortion. It is always under


some very drastic circumstances. Absolutely. Just to answer the


question. She said, the lady said she is happy with 24, because she


doesn't know any better and that seems to be working now. I think


that's right. A man has just said he thinks it should be cut to 12 or


whatever it is. We shouldn't listen to him. He was only giving his


personal view. That's why we shouldn't listen to him, it is only


his personal view. Unless there is some amazing scientific


breakthrough. There is! We have a minute or two left. I want to bring


Simon Hughes and Grant Shapps in. As a Christian, my starting point


is that abortion is not a desirable thing to happen. Nobody says that.


David Steel was brave and made it legal in this country, which was


the right thing to do. I have checked as a man and somebody who


votes on this in Parliament on a free vote. For me the one test is


viability. You shouldn't allow abortions after lives can continue


independently. For me I agree with Caroline, the medical evidence that


I have seen and I've talked to the hospitals locally to me, Guy's


Hospital and elsewhere, it is 24 weeks or very near it. It may be 23,


it might just be 22, that for me is the margin. We should have


evidence-led decision, not prejudice-led decision. Grant


Shapps? As Simon says it is a free vote in Parliament. When I voted on


it I voted I think down to 22. Possibly down to 20. I was really


looking carefully at the medical evidence to try to identify whether


there was a trend. It looks like babies can survive slightly earlier


nowadays. In terms of the Government's position, we don't


have one. We are not seeking to bring forward a vote. There isn't a


Government position on it. It will always be a free vote as far as


we're concerned. I think there should be a proper period of time.


I'm surprised to discover that in Northern Ireland it is just nine


weeks, which is very short indeed. And the Health Secretary was simply


expressing his view. He was asked how he voted and he said how he


voted. Apologies if you haven't had a chance to speak. We are going to


be in Easterhouse next week and the week after that in Slough. If you


week after that in Slough. If you would like to take part visit our


David Dimbleby chairs Question Time from Birmingham. On the panel: Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps MP, Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint MP, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Simon Hughes MP, the poet and author Benjamin Zephaniah and the Daily Telegraph columnist Cristina Odone.

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