David Dimbleby presents Question Time from Slough. He is joined by a panel comprising Vince Cable, Emily Thornberry, Claire Perry, Paul Nuttall and Mehdi Hasan.
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Good evening, this week's Question Time comes from Slough.
A big welcome to our audience here, and, of course, to our panel -
the Business Secretary, Vince Cable,
shadow Attorney General, Emily Thornberry,
Conservative MP, Claire Perry,
the deputy leader of the UK Independence Party, Paul Nuttall,
and, from the Huffington Post website, Mehdi Hasan.
Good. Our first question comes from Eamonn Barrett, please.
With today's announcement on the GDP figures,
are we seeing the first signs of green shoots?
Well, I think, initially,
the figures look rather positive.
Let's thank God that we're out of recession.
Manufacturing is up,
unemployment is down.
But there are some negatives in there.
The construction industry seems to have bottomed out.
Youth unemployment is still around 20%,
which is totally unacceptable.
And I do question whether these figures are actually real,
because, if you think of the quarter that these figures were taken,
it was from July to September, when we had the Olympic bounce.
In fact, Olympic ticket sales amounted to, I think, 0.2% of GDP.
Although they're counted in these figures,
the ticket sales necessarily didn't take place at that point.
So I do worry that the figures are false
and I do worry that we will regress, afterwards.
But the real issue with our economy, at the moment,
is actually national debt.
That's more important.
Because, whilst you're sitting here, watching this programme,
and for the people at home,
in the hour that this programme takes place,
our national debt would have grown by 18.5 million.
That's 18.5 million, every hour.
It's about 450 million a day.
So, by 2014, we could have a national debt of 1.4 trillion.
And what we're doing is we're putting a noose
round the neck of our next generation.
We're putting a noose round the neck of our children
and our grandchildren because they will have to pay off the debt
this generation has built up. And I think it's unfair,
and national debt is something that we have to get hold of.
I'll go back to the question, I think it is positive
but I do worry that these are false figures.
Vince Cable, is that an accurate description
of the way the national debt is going?
Well, national debt is a problem,
but it's only one part of a much bigger picture.
To answer Eamonn's question,
I wouldn't use the phrase "green shoots."
It's been used, unfortunately, before.
I think it's encouraging,
particularly when you take it in conjunction
with some of the other things that have happened.
We've got employment growing, unemployment falling.
Admittedly, it's too high. We've got inflation falling as well.
The problem is that...
our problems, as a country, are very, very deep-rooted.
We had, what I would call
the equivalent of an economic heart attack four years ago,
the financial system almost collapsing.
It's left a dreadful legacy.
The banks still don't function properly.
We've got households, families that still have
too much debt in many cases, they're worried about spending.
The Government's inherited this enormous deficit
we're trying to deal with.
We've now got serious problems in some of our export markets,
particularly the eurozone,
which is partly what accounts for the bad news that we had today
on the vans being produced in Southampton.
So the problems are very deep.
Today's news is encouraging.
In the Government, what we have to do
is to try and stick to a sensible path.
That means partly concentrating on getting
the finances of the Government in order.
That's a big, long-term task, and it's difficult.
But, at the same time, trying to create growth
on a steady, sustainable basis.
When you say you won't use the word "green shoots,"
do you mean you don't anticipate,
or can't promise that growth is going to go on upwards?
No, I can't promise. Because it's...
The phrase that the Governor of the Bank of England
used this morning is "zigzag."
That may be what happens.
There are major areas of weakness in the economy.
Construction, as Paul said, is one of them,
the banking sector is another. It's still in terrible shape
It's still not lending to small businesses.
Those are the things we've got to work on.
Eamonn Barrett, you're in the construction industry, aren't you?
Do you feel there are green shoots around?
I think things are picking up.
There's a lot of people I know who weren't working six months ago,
and now they're working.
Not full-time, maybe, but a few days a week, and jobs here, jobs there.
You know, it's definitely picking up, I think, anyway.
Some of us have been asking the Government for a few months,
now, what is the Plan B, what's Plan B.
And we now discover that
Plan B is, basically, Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis,
using the Olympics to get this boost.
I don't get to say this very often,
but I'm with the deputy leader of UKIP.
These are false figures.
They have a one-off boost from the Olympics,
they have a one-off boost from recovering
from the Diamond Jubilee Bank Holiday.
The inconvenient truth is that,
if you look over the course of a year,
rather than a single quarter, we haven't grown at all.
There's been zero growth over the past 12 months.
The economy today is the same size as it was a year ago.
In construction, it's 2.5% down. The Government talks about healing.
David Cameron's been using the phrase "healing."
Odd kind of healing, if you see your doctor
and he said, a year after treating you,
"You're exactly the same as you were a year ago."
That's how much you've improved.
Because the medicine's not working, austerity is not working.
Some of us warned it wouldn't work, back in 2010.
In fact there was a guy, before the last election,
I think his name was...Vince Cable,
who said that if you cut too soon,
you will tip the country into recession.
-Which is what happened.
-I wonder what happened to that man...
-I can explain!
-The reality on the ground...
The reality on the ground is the Trussell Trust,
which runs 270 food banks in this country,
is feeding 110,000 hungry people over the past six months.
There's still 2.5 million people unemployed in this country,
that's on top of 1.4 million who are having to work part-time,
because they can't find full-time work.
The question was if these figures...
There aren't green shoots.
If I'm one of the long-term unemployed,
-these aren't green shoots.
-It's not going to go on getting better?
No, I think, next quarter, we won't see anything matching this.
I think there's a real risk, as many economists in the city warned,
of a triple-dip recession.
I think, what you have to look at is what's happening on the ground,
not one single quarter's figures.
OK. The woman in the fourth row, with spectacles on.
How do you suggest we maintain the momentum
gained by the Olympics for our economy?
How do you suggest we...
What, like having Olympics every year?
We only get it every 50 years,
so it's not really a viable growth....
If I could, I think this is probably the most important question,
so, well done on leading off on it.
Mehdi, for all your ranting, Mehdi, if this was a single data point,
there would be some questions around it.
There is a whole stream of good data that came out, this week.
We had employment falling, inflation falling...
-..the deficit down by 25% since the election.
We're coming out of the biggest recession
we've had in Britain, in peacetime history.
And we are dealing with it. We are starting to see real growth.
Yes, the Olympics contributed to that.
We had the highest rate of business creation ever,
in this country, last year.
This is real growth, being generated by the private sector,
who've created over a million jobs since the election.
It is real growth. It might be choppy going forwards, but it's real growth.
Can I just say, though...
Are the Olympics partly public sector investors?
That may have something...
So maybe we need more public sector in this?
It may explain some of the construction drop off.
As a government that's undertaking
all of the really big infrastructure projects
that have been ducked by the last Labour government -
renewing sewers, putting in high-speed rail, all the tough stuff,
it doesn't buy you many votes, but it's the right thing to do.
Can I just say this? Who, actually, will go home tonight
and talk about the growth figures and the deficit?
We won't. We'll go home tonight,
and talk about the fact that the cost of living is still tough,
it's 60 shopping days till Christmas,
people are having to start paying utility bills,
cos we've got a cold snap coming.
What we have to keep doing
is relentlessly focusing on the cost of living.
Because, in my constituency, we don't talk about the deficit and borrowing,
we talk about what's coming into our households, and what's going out.
That's why freezing the council tax, freezing fuel duty,
these are the things that actually make a difference
in people's pockets.
-The woman, there.
As a trade unionist, I object
to the Government ranting, all the time, about,
"The Labour Party did this, the Labour Party did this."
We need to look back at when Margaret Thatcher
sold off all of the social housing.
I agree, we've bought our house,
and I think it's a good opportunity.
But, it was all flags and whistles.
Now, there are people
who can't even afford to live in their own homes.
There's no social housing, and you expect us to believe you?
Do you believe the figures
that show that the double-dip recession may be over,
or do you think things are going to get worse?
-I think the figures they put out today are a load of lies.
And the woman in red?
I just wanted to take Claire Perry up on the fact
that she just said that the deficit was down by 25%.
Isn't that a complete fallacy?
I remember watching another news programme, produced by the BBC,
and they suggested that, actually,
the data point that George Osborne collected the data from,
gave this impression that the deficit was down by 25%,
but, actually, if we wait until the end of the year,
the deficit's only down by 2.5%.
Emily Thornberry, would you like to comment on that, and the issue of
whether the whole thing is a load of lies, in your view?
Which is the point that was made.
I think this is good news. I do think it's good news.
I think 1% growth is good news.
The reason it's good news
is because we're coming out of a recession.
Why are we coming out of a recession?
Because we've had a second recession.
We've had a double-dip recession. Why have we had that?
That's because of choices this Government has made.
There's only been two countries in the G20 that have had
a double-dip recession, and one of those has been ours.
What worries me, is this good news
will just result in this Government becoming even more complacent.
They'll sit back and say,
"Everything's working, everything's fine.
"We don't need to invest in social housing,
"We don't need to make sure that we have more jobs for young people."
Forgive me, but when have you heard anybody said that?
When have we ever said...?
Do tell me whether you're going to be investing in social housing.
Under your government,
social housing dropped to the lowest level since the 1920s.
Social housing is one of the biggest problems in my constituency.
A third of my casework is people who cannot find affordable housing,
thanks to the disastrous legacy your government left.
We are doing all we can to build social housing,
it's the biggest problem facing young people today
is they can't buy a house or find anywhere to rent.
You should be apologising, Emily, for your track record.
In the area that I represent,
40% of the people in my constituency live in social housing.
What we did see, over the time of a Labour government,
since you raise it, Claire, was all the social housing
in my constituency got done up. It was in the most disgusting state,
frankly, when the Tories came out of government, and we did it all up.
I don't think we built enough
and I think, when we're coming out of a recession,
what we should be doing is making good decisions
about how we invest in our infrastructure,
and we should be investing in our infrastructure by building homes,
and building homes, particularly, for youngsters.
I am concerned about long-term unemployment,
and long-term unemployment amongst the young.
You know that, in Berkshire, which frankly is a mixed area,
it has a lot of posh bits, but nevertheless, 12 months ago,
100 youngsters had been claiming JSA for a year.
Do you know how many are claiming it now, in Berkshire? 400.
And 100 of those are in Slough.
If you are a youngster, if you're 18,
and you claim benefits for a whole year,
and you're not able to get a job,
it will make a huge difference to your life.
And those mums and dads who've done their best to bring up children
as best they can, and push them out into the world,
and the world is just saying, "No, sorry, don't need you.
"Have you have a younger brother?
"We might be interested in five years' time."
That is the tragedy of this recession.
It is really urgent that we invest now.
A couple more points. Go on, the man, there, in the middle?
Thank you. During an earlier recession
at the beginning of the '90s, which was also quite a bad one,
not as bad as this one, but, for the years up until 1997,
the Labour Party said, "Oh, things are still getting worse.
"Nothing's getting better, we're in recession."
They ridiculed John Major they ridiculed Ken Clarke,
they ridiculed Norman Lamont.
And, lo and behold, about four or five years after...
..they suddenly thought that, now Labour was in power,
things have turned round, are getting better.
Actually the statistics were so far out of date...
as to be laughable.
What we need are accurate statistics,
independent statistics, which we should be getting now.
-They are, sir. Sorry to interrupt you.
-But are they any more accurate?
We set up the Office for Budget Responsibility,
not necessarily something Gordon Brown
and the previous government believed in,
to try and address the problem that the Treasury made up the numbers.
Now we have an independently-verified set of numbers...
They might well get revised...
Which the Prime Minister is ticked off for announcing in advance...
He didn't announce it...
On the OBR - the Office of Budget Responsibility
predicted in 2010, two years ago,
that, by now, we would have had 4.6% of growth. 4.6%.
Do you know how much growth we've had over two years? Claire?
-0.6% versus 4.6%. That is a failure.
Claire, I'll curtail your contribution
in favour of Vince Cable. You are both part of the same coalition.
And he is a far more senior member.
He's not a senior member, he's the Secretary of State...
There is a striking irony.
When we had bad news, the last few quarters,
most of our critics rushed out and said,
"This is a complete disaster, the figures were obviously right."
Now we've got good figures, our critics say,
-"They're obviously fixed!"
If I could deal with the criticism I had a few moments ago
about cutting too fast.
I did say that, and I would still say that.
The Government has a very difficult balancing act.
And you got it wrong.
No, we have to cut our deficit.
It is massive, the biggest in the developed world.
An enormous budget deficit - we have to deal with it.
If we do it too fast, you're right, you do drive the economy down.
If you don't do it fast enough,
you lose the confidence of the people lending to you.
Striking that balance is extraordinarily difficult.
The bit of austerity that did the biggest damage
was in 2009-10.
I think the then-Chancellor slashed the public investment,
in the things Claire was talking about. Infrastructure.
That has done terrible damage to the construction industry.
We've steadily rebuilt that.
We have to get the budget deficit under control.
We argue it should be done over a six-year period.
You may argue that that is too quick.
The Labour Party have said it should be over seven years. Big deal(!)
Forgive me, Vince, but they haven't said...
Emily, you may say we've got it wrong...
If I get a word in edgeways.
You've said you would like to cut the deficit. What would you cut?
Name one thing that the Labour Party has supported us on
-in terms of reductions...
-Emily, a brief answer.
I think we should be responsible when it comes to cutting back money
that we are investing in the police force.
I think you are cutting the police force far too much.
We've lost 6,000 front-line police officers.
And crime is at its lowest level...
-If you want me to answer, let me answer.
If you go and cut investment in police officers,
you were warned that you would lose front-line police officers.
I think the question was, "Where would you cut?"
What we've said is we would cut investment,
cut the money we pay to the police force,
in line with that which has been advised,
which would not result in cuts in front-line police officers.
That is the difference between what you're doing,
which is going too far and too fast
and resulting in a double-dip recession.
Of course we have to pay back the debt and the deficit,
but we have to do it in a responsible way
-that keeps us together as a country.
-We must go on.
I must ask the panellists to speak slightly less long,
or at slightly less length,
so we can get more members of the audience in.
And the panellists can come back on each other.
If you want to join in the debate tonight,
on Twitter, you can go there...
We have our Twitter panellist there.
You can text comments.
You can press the red button on the...thingy...
-to see what others are saying.
-What do you call that? A "zapper"!
The remote... I thought you tapped the red screen... Anyway.
Let's go onto another question.
Angela Kirk has this one.
Is the proposal to limit Child Benefit to the first two children
fair and reasonable?
This is a proposal that Iain Duncan Smith has been making,
these last two days.
He made a speech this evening saying that the benefits system
promoted destructive behaviour,
and, on the Today programme, he said,
"My view is that you need a cap on child benefits at two children.
"For those who begin to have more than, say, two children,
"you should stop it."
Is it a good idea for the Government to do this?
Is the Government going to do it? Emily Thornberry.
Well, I think... I don't really know where to start with this.
I think it is absolutely extraordinary
for politicians to go around pontificating
and telling people how many children they should have.
I think people have children for love, not for money.
It is extraordinary. I do think it's a distraction technique.
I think it is trying to distract the public
from what this government is actually doing.
Iain Duncan Smith has agreed
to cut another £10 billion from the welfare budget.
That's at the same time
as them giving £40,000 tax cuts to millionaires.
So they give the millionaires £40,000 and they expect the poorest
to be making their contribution by another £10 billion.
How can it be that they can start making decisions
about how many children people should have and start penalising people?
Is there a difference between telling people how many children
they can have, as in China,
and not giving benefit to families with more than two children?
Is there a difference?
If you're the fourth child born into a poor family,
and your family are therefore getting no money, is it your fault?
Should you be in a family that's even poorer?
What do they expect people to do? Starve their children?
What are they expecting here?
Surely we should have a government that cares about child poverty,
that wants to do something about it,
that doesn't start trying to penalise people
because of the choices they've made. APPLAUSE
It seems to me the most dreadful thing.
We talk about how they wanted to move away from being "the nasty party"
but it strikes me this is exactly from that stable.
I must say, I must pay tribute to Iain Duncan Smith.
This is a guy who knows his brief.
He spent eight years researching this before he went into government.
-He refused to be moved in the reshuffle, as well.
He understands his brief.
I don't agree with much that the Coalition does,
but I do believe that they are getting this right
on welfare and benefits.
Under Labour, welfare exploded.
It rose by 60% between 1997 and 2010.
It was unsustainable.
It's cost each household, in tax, £3,000 a year.
But what we must be careful of doing
is we shouldn't stigmatise people on welfare.
There are graduates coming out of university who can't jobs.
There are people who are being affected by the cuts
who are coming out of work and can't get jobs.
However, there is a growing underclass in this country.
You know, I'm from Bootle,
which is one of the poorest constituencies in the country.
We have the lowest life expectancy in England.
And I see it every day.
You've got one family who live there. Dad goes out to work,
maybe on the docks, maybe in a factory.
Mum goes out, stacks shelves in ASDA. They live within their means.
They make that decision.
Then you've got the family next door on benefits,
who still have the flat-screen television, still have a car
and can afford to go on holiday once a year.
What it's doing, this system,
is creating resentment within the working-class community
and splitting the working-class community.
Can I just say...?
Paul, I'll come back to you.
The gentleman in blue and then the woman in red.
I think the issue is parental responsibility. I've got a son.
I wouldn't bring another child into the world
if I couldn't afford to pay for a second child.
I think it's a naive view...
It's a naive view to say that people
bring children into the world for love, because...
it's a fact, some people have children simply to claim benefits.
but successive governments have not anything about it.
The woman in the third row from the back, with spectacles.
It's all very well to say that people should limit their families,
but what about the family with three or four children now,
who suddenly would find their Child Benefit cut?
Are they supposed to throw a child into the bushes and just keep two(?)
Mrs Kirk, you may be better informed than me.
I think IDS was talking about the overall benefit package,
not Child Benefit.
Child Benefit is already being restructured.
It's not going to be paid
to the richest 15% of families in the country.
The average salary of people in my constituency is £25,000.
I don't think it's fair to tax those people
to pay child benefits to MPs like Emily and I.
"Child-related benefits," was his words.
I do agree with the gentleman in the blue,
it's in the question of fairness.
I don't think it's fair that families on benefits...
I don't want to stigmatise. I disagree with you, Paul -
you can't stigmatise and characterise people in certain ways,
but it is not fair that the decisions they make
are different from the decisions that people in work have to make.
Many people think very hard about the cost of bring up the child,
the cost of moving house,
what it would cost to provide an extra bedroom.
What Iain Duncan Smith is saying is people on benefits
should be making those same sorts of decisions.
Is it fair and reasonable, in your view,
to limit these child-related benefits?
I think it is fair and reasonable.
I would want to see the transitional arrangements, though.
Of course, you wouldn't expect families who already have
three or four children to suddenly lose it.
You would want to provide a very strong signal, going forward,
and making sure it is transitional.
It is fair that people on benefits
have to think the same way as people in work.
We want people on benefits to move into work,
not to be on benefits for a lifetime.
I think the Government has a wonderful new slogan,
"Tough on babies, tough on the causes of babies"(!)
I was astonished at where this coalition goes with these policies
and where it comes up with these policies
Paul, with respect, you say we have a system that creates resentment.
No, we have politicians who create resentment,
when they talk about people with flat-screen TVs and holidays.
Let's cut through the myths and lies for a second.
In this country, Iain Duncan Smith is talking about poverty,
child poverty and welfare.
In this country, six out of ten children who live in child poverty
live in working, not work-less households,
but we stigmatise them as living in lazy, feckless households.
-As for large families,
which Iain Duncan Smith talked about on the Today programme,
if you look at his own department's figures,
there are 40,000 families claiming out-of-work child-related benefits
who have five kids or more. Which is 3% of the total.
In fact, 80% of people claiming child-related benefits
have two kids or less.
Let's not generalise,
based on Daily Mail scare stories about one woman with ten kids.
The gentleman in the audience,
I take your point about your own situation. But if, tomorrow,
thanks to this government's mismanagement of the economy,
you lost your job, would you want to lose your benefits
through no fault of your own? Would your child have to suffer?
That's not what I said.
My point was that people need to take more responsibility.
But what if you lose your job?
If you lose your responsibility, you are a viable case.
It should be done on a case-by-case basis,
not, "I have five children, I get this much money."
That's not what I said.
Paul Nuttall, you want to come back
on the point Mehdi said about your characterisation... ?
I think you'd have to be mad to claim
that there isn't a significant underclass in this country.
I'm telling you,
there is a significant underclass in this country
and it has been borne out of a benefits and welfare system which...
It is borne out of unemployment! It is borne out of unemployment!
4 million people in this country are looking for work.
One at a time! Mehdi, you've had your say.
Let him reply to the attack you made.
Whoever set it up didn't mean it to be set up like this.
What we've got at the moment is a benefits system
which should be a safety net for the needy, but in some cases,
and I hasten to say, in SOME cases, what it's become is a career path
and a vehicle for people who just don't want to work.
-Can I come back to that?
-No, in a moment, you can.
Vince Cable, is this a proposal that you support?
No, and if that is the proposal, it wouldn't be fair and reasonable.
It isn't Government policy. I don't think that's what he said.
If you're talking about Child Benefit, Claire accurately described
the way we are changing it - to withdraw it from high earners.
If you're talking about Child Tax Credit,
which is what people get when they're in work,
and, as Mehdi said, most people who are poor are in work...
Child Tax Credit has been significantly increased.
So hold on, you are in the Government with him,
at Work and Pensions,
and what he said on the Today programme was,
he suggested a cap on child-related benefits at two children.
Well, we don't agree with that.
So that won't happen, you'll block it?
We've made it clear we will not go along with welfare cuts
-which are unfair.
-And you deem two-children families...?
That is almost certainly right.
Sorry, just to get this absolutely clear.
It's unfair because it says, "Two children and that's it"?
Yes. That's exactly right.
What we do feel, I would say this,
Iain is a very decent, humane and good minister.
The principle he is trying to address,
and has done since we came in,
is that it is fundamentally unfair for people
to be better off out of work than in work.
That's the fundamental unfairness that he is trying to deal with.
We are trying to deal with that through welfare reform,
through the universal credit.
Iain deserves as lot of praise for what he's done in that respect.
This particular proposal -
I don't know whether this is kite flying
-or a misunderstanding of what he said - wouldn't be acceptable.
Emily, briefly if you would then we must move on.
Some members of the panel are labouring under this misunderstanding
about the number of people who are working and also getting benefits.
You talked at the beginning of the programme, sir,
about how some of your friends
are starting to work, but they are working part-time.
The only way in which people can work part-time
and make ends meet in somewhere like Berkshire
is if they're getting housing benefit,
tax credits and child benefit.
They do their best to get a job.
They are striving away,
but the idea that some government then turns around and says,
"I'm sorry, but you're on benefits and you've got two children.
"We're going to have to start taking your money away." What is this about?
This is not about a party that is interested in one nation.
Can I say one other thing?
I hear what Vince says
about this brave new world that IDS is bringing in.
Everyone within Westminster knows
that the Universal Credit is in trouble...
-That's not true.
-..their IT programme is over budget.
It is coming in much later.
We also know that there were all sorts of rumours
about them trying to sack IDS,
Frankly, this is a distraction.
This is him desperately trying to hold onto his job and saying,
"Look, David Cameron, I can push us up in the polls..."
-"..by coming out with this sort of nonsense."
You can answer that point. Is he trying to hold onto his job?
-Is he in danger of being sacked?
-IDS recognises the problem
that we have five million people of working age
receiving benefits in this country.
We created 2.4 million jobs under Emily's government
and half of them went to people who came from abroad...
Hang on a second.
You can go on for hours about the many problems,
the question is, is IDS just saying this?
Vince Cable said it might be kite-flying, is it?
IDS is 100% committed to resolving the very tough problems we have.
We have an incredibly complex, badly-structured welfare system.
You think his job's safe?
The most popular thing we have done is introduce a welfare cap
that means people on benefits can't earn more than those in work.
Emily voted against that. It's shocking.
The man in the third row, please. And then we must move on.
And then the woman there, yes.
I'm not a UKIP man but I do agree with Paul Nuttall on this.
He mentioned the term resentment
and it's causing resentment amongst the working classes.
That is true,
but I think the bigger resentment that people are not looking at is...
We're talking about trying to shave off tens of billions,
but the hundreds of billions, possibly even trillions
that are avoided in terms of taxation
and I think that should be...
-That should be the very, very incisive focus.
There's quicker wins there if there's the willpower to do it.
Claire said at the beginning
that we should back off the financial sector,
-there is always some protectionism going on...
-Oh, no, not quite.
-..and that I find more resentful.
The woman there in red, who I said I would come to.
What I was going to say was
they could recoup a lot of money
by hitting hard at people who defraud the benefit service
instead of nowadays, they just get a slap on the wrist.
All right. The woman at the back, in the back row.
Good evening, bearing in mind
that we have the highest number of single mothers in Europe,
why should single women who choose to become pregnant,
get free housing and benefits,
whereas other young people work hard, pay tax
-and can hardly afford a one-bedroomed home?
And you, sir.
I was wondering where you are getting these numbers from?
I got a sense that the Conservative government
is speaking the numbers that are suitable for them,
but the real numbers,
the numbers that are showing the problems for everybody
is somehow being hidden or brushed under the carpet all of the time.
What do you mean? The statistics are wrong?
The statistics are being picked up by certain...
The good statistics are being picked up, but proper statistics
are not being brought up into the air and discussed.
We have to leave it there. We have many more questions.
I would like to go on to one from Catherine Sharpe, please.
Has the BBC been fatally damaged in the public's mind
as a result of the Jimmy Savile scandal?
-D'you know, the more that comes out,
as somebody who used to love Jim'll Fix It,
the more disgusting and distressing actually the situation is.
Frankly, the man was a predatory paedophile
who plied his trade for 40 years
under five successive director generals.
I don't think it's particularly helpful now to have a firestorm
over who knew what when in the Newsnight programme.
The thing I find most worrying,
and I think it's the same in the Rochdale grooming cases,
is the voices of the victims I think have been completely ignored,
and I am sick to death
of young women coming forward years later for whatever reason,
not feeling that they could be believed or listened to
and that, I think, is the real tragedy.
I want to focus on that and make sure that doesn't happen again.
The BBC is doing too much navel-gazing
over who knew what when.
For the first time in my life,
I literally agree with every single word
that Claire Perry just said.
We'll get you voting Tory one day, Mehdi.
Not quite, because a lot of your fellow Tory MPs
are pushing the anti-BBC banner.
I agree with you, the BBC has clearly failed in many areas -
there's two investigations going on.
Let's wait for their results.
I suspect the BBC won't come out so well out of either of them.
Let's not be distracted by this media navel-gazing,
whether Panorama is leading on Newsnight,
Newsnight is leading on Panorama, the Ten O'Clock News is leading on both.
It's absolutely absurd the kind of journalists obsessing over the BBC.
Whatever they did wrong, and we don't know what they did wrong,
George Entwistle and Peter Rippon did not sexually abuse children,
Jimmy Savile did.
Jimmy Savile got away with it, those women were abused and ignored.
We need to focus on how he got away with it and -
I'm sorry if this sounds cliched - to stop such things happening again.
That surely is the priority here, giving those women voices.
Trying to get closure, trying to get some justice,
and I'm glad the CPS this week
has actually come out with practical things that it'll do
to try and investigate these crimes and stop this from happening again.
This is not a media regulation story, this is a child sex abuse story.
The woman there.
In this vast media industry,
I think Jimmy Savile is just the tip of the iceberg
because as the two women in the panel here...
I don't think he is the only one.
There are many men, most men are in the top jobs here
and this is what they do to most women and what do they say to them?
"If you do this, that's how you'll stay on the job."
That's the main reason why they kept their mouths closed.
This is an assumption I'm making, but...
MEHDI: A pretty big one!
..as an inspiring journalist, it's quite scary,
because you hear these kinds of stories and you are scared.
"What'll happen next if a person like Jimmy Savile
"did something like that?"
I think the one thing that's upset me really
about this story over the past couple of weeks,
is that people are talking about it
as if that was the culture in the 1970s.
But look, paedophilia isn't about culture,
paedophilia is a serious crime and it needs to be knocked out.
But in terms of the BBC, I agree with John Simpson.
I think the BBC is facing the biggest crisis
that it's faced in the past 50 years.
Now we have got people passing the buck,
people trying to pass the blame onto people
who are lower down the food chain, shall we say, in the BBC.
I haven't lost confidence in the BBC,
I've lost confidence in the BBC hierarchy.
I feel as if there's a bit of inevitability about this now.
Like the Andrew Mitchell case, I think it's gone on too long.
It's only going to get bigger and in the end, heads will roll,
and I suspect it will end up with the director general having to go.
But, look, the real point in this is that 300 people have come forward
and said that they have been victims.
They're the people we should be focusing on
and we should wish the police well in their investigations
because there are perpetrators still out there
who need to be brought to justice.
Now, what do we do with Savile himself?
His gravestone has been removed.
We've had street names which have been taken down.
I would suggest the next move in how to deal with Jimmy Savile
would be to strip him of his knighthood.
It'll take a change in the law. Let's do it.
Strip him of his knighthood and also,
let's get the Catholic church
to do away with his papal knighthood to boot,
because that man needs to be punished even in death.
You, sir, on the gangway there.
Do you think that everyone in entertainment,
dealing with young children, should have a CRB check?
-Vince Cable, I'm sure they do, don't they?
-I'm sure they do.
If they're employed they will have CRB checks.
Can I just go back to the original question, which Catherine asked?
"Is the BBC fatally damaged?"
It is damaged, but not fatally.
I would say in its defence,
what other media organisation in the world
would put out a programme attacking itself,
which is what it did with the Panorama programme?
I mean, rather brutally exposed the complete failure.
I think the public almost certainly do wonder
what on earth these extraordinary highly-paid executives were doing
in making such a complete crass mishandling of this.
But that isn't the central problem and I agree with the other speakers,
the real issue here is not the programme
that the BBC didn't put out and the editorially bad decision.
The real appalling thing
is how this man operated for three decades or longer,
enormous cases of abuse.
The real scandal, which I think really does need investigating
is why was it that in 2009, when he was still alive,
the Crown Prosecution Service had a lot of evidence in their hands,
they had the evidence of people like that very brave woman, Karen Davies,
the cancer sufferer who explained brutally what had happened,
and yet, they didn't prosecute and that really does need pursuing.
I agree with the panel on the broader question
that it isn't about who said what to whom in the BBC
the real crime here is that paedophilia,
on an epic scale, was tolerated.
People turned the other way, prosecutions were not pursued
and that's the really deep scandal.
The person up there on the top right-hand side, yes.
Thank you. Just widening this slightly
to the broader issue of BBC governance,
I think I heard Chris Patten give a talk a day or two ago
where he was very apologetic and supportive of BBC management.
I thought the role of the BBC Trust
was to act as the guardian of the licence payer
and I don't see that
they are maintaining a sufficiently independent position on this.
They seem to be acting purely as cheerleaders for BBC...
The management line,
as opposed to the viewer and licence fee payer.
There's a couple of things I want to say about this.
I don't know how many people here watched the Panorama programme,
but it was really harrowing to watch.
I thought watching Karin Ward give the evidence that she did
and also the little boy who had been a Cub Scout,
who'd been on Jim'll Fix It
and him being picked out by Savile and having a ribbon put round him
and then taken back to a dressing room and being abused
was something I won't ever forget.
I also thought that what was really shocking
and more shocking than anything that has been happening recently,
was when he was going around on Nationwide and he had a bus,
and he was using the bus to take kids into the back and abuse,
rumours were going round saying something was going on
and it was taken up to higher management, and, somehow or other,
higher management only spoke to other people on the floor,
they didn't speak to the people on the floor below
like the people who had been around
and who actually might be able to tell them one way or the other,
and turned a blind eye, and so it continued.
It continued for decades, and I agree, you know what?
-I agree with you, Claire.
This may be the only time I ever will!
But I agree with you that, actually,
we should be focusing first and foremost on the victims.
I'm really disappointed in the Crown Prosecution Service
for letting down these victims.
You know, when evidence comes forward,
I'm really shocked that they did not go ahead with prosecuting,
and it's for that reason that I wrote, in my capacity as Shadow AG,
to Her Majesty's Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service
the day after the stuff came out and asked for an independent inspection.
That is being investigated now?
It's being investigated by the CPS.
It's a little bit like the BBC doing an investigation of itself
or the health service doing an investigation of itself,
or Broadmoor doing an investigation of itself.
I think that Harriet Harman is right,
we need to have a larger investigation
and we need to look at the sexualisation of 15-year-olds,
the way in which girls are not taken seriously.
The way in which we treat them
and, frankly, it is not something that simply happened in the '70s
and has not happened since, we just need to see it from Rochdale.
We need to see Rochdale and see that when we get vulnerable victims,
they need to be treated with particular care
and with some responsibility.
To see these people come forward and say,
"I feel so guilty about what happened.
"I feel as though it was my fault.
"If only I'd complained,
"many other generations would not have been abused."
-That's appalling to hear that.
-The man with a beard in the middle.
Where are we going to find the Hercules
to clean out this Augean mess that we have in the public sector?
We've got the BBC investigating itself
over covering up of paedophilia.
We've got MPs with their snouts in the trough again!
We've got all sorts.
We've got coppers and the Hillsborough thing's come out again.
We can't get away from it
until we find some way of actually really going in
and shaking everything down, root and branch,
and kicking this wickedness out.
I think the BBC's investigations are independent.
They've appointed outsiders to do it.
It's a firm of lawyers who are used for handling the firestorms
that you normally get when things like this happen.
They are hardly independent cos I was reading today,
one of the biggest clients of these lawyers who are doing it is the BBC!
Can I just say...? I mean,
it's not just the BBC who've got to answer questions here,
it's the CPS, it's the national press, actually.
Because there was...
The rumours were well known.
We know the national press looked at it in 1992 - a certain newspaper,
and it was dropped for legal reasons.
Five police forces were investigating Savile
and I think the NHS has questions to answer
for giving him the right to roam round Leeds.
They gave him a bedroom in Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
And an office in Broadmoor, which is outrageous.
All of these organisations have got questions to answer,
it's not just the BBC.
We'll go on.
I'll take a question from Taj.
But just before I do, the chairman of the Conservative Party
complained that, when he was on Question Time two weeks ago,
he was give an brief by the BBC
about what he should say about the BBC.
I've had no briefings, I want to reassure you.
Good. I'm glad to hear it.
-I wouldn't listen anyway.
Should David Cameron give the European Court the two-finger salute
by not granting prisoners the right to vote?
It's a curious position on this right to vote,
because the Prime Minister says "over his dead body"
will prisoner get the right to vote and, at the same time,
his own Attorney General is saying...
Advising a committee that, actually...
Let's just quote the words,
"It could be thrown out by the Council of Europe,
"compensation claims will be made
"and Britain will be seen by other countries
"as moving away from our strict adherence to human rights laws."
So, it looks as though Prime Minister and Attorney General
are rather at loggerheads, Vince Cable. What's your view?
-I don't think so.
He doesn't need to give the European Court the two-finger salute,
because the European Court are not arguing
that prisoners should be given the vote.
They're saying that not all prisoners
should be excluded from having the vote,
which is a very, very different proposition.
I mean, I totally agree with the Prime Minister
that when people are put in prison, they lose their liberties
and one key liberty is the right to vote. He's absolutely right,
and that's the way Parliament has voted.
What the European Court has said
is that not everybody should, as a matter of principle, be stopped.
At the moment, there are people, for example, who are in prison
for not paying fines who are allowed to vote.
I would have thought there are other cases too.
I mean, I was recently had an open prison in Lancashire
and before people are released, who are threat to the public,
they're allowed home at weekends.
I mean, you've got some people who are half-in, half-out of prison.
It scarcely requires enormous imagination
to see how the principle which the European Court laid down
could be honoured in the law.
-"It makes me physically..."
-So, the two positions are not in contradiction.
David Cameron - "It makes me physically ill
"to even contemplate having to give the vote
"to ANYONE who is in prison."
Well, people in prison at the moment can vote if,
I think in some specific cases, if there is a fine default.
-So he's wrong?
-As a matter of fact.
No, I share his indignation at the idea that extreme cases,
whether murderers or rapists or whatever,
shouldn't be treated the same as everybody else.
-No-one is proposing that.
-But nobody is actually proposing that.
What the European Court has ruled
is that there shouldn't be a blanket ban
and that seems to be sensible and right and balanced
and something that could be entirely reconciled with his position,
which is mine, and the views of Parliament.
Emily Thornberry? You're the Shadow Attorney General.
There was a big vote against prisoners getting the right to vote.
Last year, I think it was.
Do you think Cameron is right and should say, "No, absolutely not"?
or is Dominic Grieve's argument right, that...?
I think I would start with...
It's Labour's position that we are against the idea
of convicted prisoners having the right to vote.
It's Parliament's view, and frankly, it's the public's view as well.
Now, in my role as Shadow Attorney General,
I obviously also have to give legal advice
and so my legal advice would be that the European Court is saying
that it is wrong for us to have a blanket ban,
that we would be in breach of our international obligations
if we didn't do something about this and therefore, indeed,
ministers would be in breach of the Ministerial Code.
I mean, you have to, as Attorney General, tell the Prime Minister
or the Leader of the Opposition these truths.
Because these are truths
and we need, as lawyers, to be able to give them that advice.
I mean, there is developing a doctrine,
which is called the margin of appreciation,
which is basically saying, we all sign up to the European Convention,
we all say that there are certain basic standards
that they must comply with but Europe is beginning to understand
that countries do have different cultures, different backgrounds,
different politics and, over the years,
there have been a number of decisions
in relation to prisoner voting
and they are beginning to, more and more, understand
that there is a margin of appreciation.
I mean, I just don't think the European Court
are going to go to the wall on this for Britain.
-Ah! So you'd defy them?
-If you compare...
-Is that what you mean?
You're doing lawyer's talk, or Shadow Attorney General's talk.
You asked me as Shadow Attorney General,
and I'm telling you the advice I would give to Ed Miliband.
If he said, "It sticks in my craw to give a vote to a prisoner,"
-I'd say, well, for 13 years,
we did not give votes to prisoners
and, as a politician, as well as a lawyer,
-my politician's advice would be different.
So, there's lawyer's advice and politician's advice.
As Shadow Attorney General, you straddle both horses,
that's why I've said my lawyer's advice is one thing,
political is another.
-As we discovered during the run-up to the Iraq war.
-No. Now, now...
Well, I agree with the Prime Minister on this.
It makes me sick to my stomach,
the idea that prisoners should have the vote.
But what makes me more sick
is the fact that our own sovereign Parliament,
our own elected representatives, have voted to say no
to votes for prisoners and, actually,
we're being told we have to do it by a court
which actually isn't even in this country, by judges who are faceless.
It's absolutely wrong.
-Can I just make another point on this?
Look, criminals have broken their contract with society.
Society should break its contract with them.
Now, here's the interesting point on this.
At no point in the European Convention of Human Rights
does it mention votes.
In fact, it was the Atlee Government that made sure it wasn't mentioned.
We're in a situation now in this country,
where the only people who can't vote are peers...
..felons and lunatics.
Now, I can see all sorts of legal wrangles coming,
cos where are we going to go?
The logical conclusion is we give prisoners the vote,
we give lunatics the vote.
Some could say that the lunatics run the country, but there we are.
Here's a big point. What are we going to do, David?
Are we going to defy the fines or are we going to leave the ECHR?
Because we can't! I'll tell you why.
Because to be a member of the European Union,
you have to be in the European Court of Human Rights.
At it's things like votes for prisoners
which actually make people more sceptical about Europe
and it's one of the reasons why more people want a referendum
on our membership of the EU.
It's not, of course...
Well, you can argue about how concomitant it is
with membership of the Union.
Taj, you asked the question, what do you make of the answers?
Vince Cable said that it's not all prisoners
are going to be banned from voting.
But, you go to prison for having committed serious crimes
against society, so you forfeit your right to have a say
in who should be running our country.
I just want to say,
the European Convention on Human Rights itself
is a very good piece of law, but for far too long, for far too many years,
some decisions have been devoid of common sense
-and the human responsibilities.
I don't agree. I don't think people go to prison for serious offences,
I think there's a bigger question here.
We lock up far too many people for all sorts of minor offences,
for all sorts of non-violent and trivial offences...
We have one of the highest per capita prison populations
in Western Europe, so I don't even buy the argument.
Not everyone in prison is a crazy psychopath
and no-one is suggesting giving the crazy psychopath votes.
So, Vince is right there, this is about blanket bans.
And your question was about giving a two-fingered salute to the ECHR.
I mean, if Vladimir Putin is watching Question Time
on iPlayer Catch-up and he heard your question, he'd be delighted.
If the President of Belarus was watching, he'd be delighted too.
We can't go around saying,
"We want to give two fingers to international human rights law,"
and lecture the rest of the world
that they must follow the same human rights law.
That's deeply hypocritical. And as for Paul's point
about how unpopular it is and sovereign judges,
just a couple of weeks ago, Theresa May was keeping Gary McKinnon
in this country, a hugely popular move,
on the basis of human rights legislation,
on the basis of the ECHR.
So, suddenly it's wonderful, and suddenly it's the enemy.
OK, I'm going to stop you.
Is there somebody with their arm up there? No.
All right, you, Sir. And then I will come to you, Claire.
I'd just like to call Paul up on...
Did you call people
who are sectioned under the Mental Health Act "lunatics"?
Because that's quite offensive.
Hate to be... Hate to...
It does stipulate quite clearly that the people who can't vote
-in this country are peers, felons and lunatics.
Um, the European Court of Human Rights was set up by Britain
as a way of preventing genocide ever happening again in Europe.
It was a fine and noble aim
and it has strayed so far from that remit, in my view.
I had the pleasure of being part of the UK delegation
to the European Council.
You think our money is being wasted there with people talking nonsense.
You're right, that's what's happening.
On this issue, I have to say,
I am slightly in the wishy-washy camp of thinking
prisoners who are being rehabilitated
perhaps could earn this right.
It's part of becoming a responsible citizen again.
But what I want is that decision to be a sovereign decision here.
It is a decision for British politicians and British courts.
And frankly, Mehdi, you talk about Russia and Belarus,
the scale of human rights abuses going on
amongst other countries in Europe pales...
My point was you can't pick and choose
which bits you want to put two fingers up to.
I think that given that the court has a multi-year backlog of cases,
we would be reasonable in doing what the Prime Minister says,
which is, it is a decision for us. Come on, sue us, bring it on.
All right, thank you very much. We've got only a few minutes left,
but we've got UKIP here, we've got the Liberal Democrats,
we got the Tories here, we've got political commentator, Mehdi Hasan
and we've got the Shadow Attorney General.
We've got a question from Aidan Watson.
And we only have a few minutes to answer it.
In recent polls,
the Liberal Democrats have come out as fourth behind UKIP.
Should they leave the coalition
before they lose whatever support they still have?
Yes. Vince Cable.
No, we're not going to leave the coalition.
We've taken on a very challenging, very difficult task.
The country faced a major emergency two and a half years ago,
a serious economic crisis.
We felt we should contribute to that and provide stable government
over five years.
There are many things we disagree with the Conservatives about
and we'll continue to argue with them,
but the core purpose of the coalition remains intact.
What about slipping behind UKIP?
Yes, well, we'll see whether the UKIP party win 50-plus seats
at the next general election.
I suspect they won't. But let's argue that when we come to it.
We think we have a good record and we will defend it,
and I think the public will understand
that we did something difficult, but right,
and that will be recognised when we come to the next election.
OK. Paul Nuttall.
Might be the Tories that ought to leave the coalition
if they see you making headway, shouldn't they?
Well, we'll talk about that down the line.
I mean, UKIP is the fastest growing political party in Britain.
We're polling now around 10% to 12% quite regularly in opinion polls.
We're expected to do well in the Corby by-election.
In fact, we're fielding more candidates
in the police commissioner elections than the Liberal Democrats.
That sort of tells us where we are at the moment,
and we're projected to go on and win the 2014 General Election...
Sorry, European election. Well...! LAUGHTER
Let's see where we are in 2015. It could be very interesting indeed.
Mehdi Hasan, is it time for the coalition to break up?
-Purely in self-interested political terms?
Do you think Vince is right to stick with it?
Vince points out that UKIP won't win 50 seats at the next election.
The problem is, Vince's party won't win 50 seats at the next election,
that's the problem.
Come the autumn of 2014, as Lib Dem MPs in marginal seats
are staring into the abyss, the cry will go up,
"Call for Vince, call for Vince,"
and I think there'll be a great moment there
to see if they have the backbone to get rid of an unpopular leader,
try and get in another leader who used to be quite popular
and then, get a bit of a bounce, a bit of a honeymoon period.
If they time it right, they might be able to save themselves.
Otherwise, I suspect, they're heading for meltdown.
-Well, the economy, back to Eamonn's first question,
-the economy is healing, we are dealing with the deficit.
We came together because we were facing
the biggest peacetime economic crisis this country has ever seen,
thanks to the totally irresponsible...
-Yeah, we get the speech.
-You made it worse.
Are you alarmed by the rise of UKIP?
Look. Paul, forgive me,
what is your policy for cutting the deficit?
-You don't have one.
-Hang on. Whoa, whoa, whoa.
-Don't ask him!
Claire, just make a political point,
what is your view of the rise of UKIP and the effect it will have?
I think UKIP is a natural...
It is a tough, slow recovery,
and UKIP is unnatural protest place for many people to go,
who could never bring themselves to vote ever again for Labour,
given the wreckage that was wrought on the country.
It is a natural protest.
Vince, I know I'll be fighting against Liberal candidates,
we will wish each other well, but the coalition will last until 2015.
And you have no time for UKIP?
Well, I... UKIP...
UKIP have a lot of time for the Tories.
-They keep wanting to flirt with you and...
David Cameron called them "loonies, closet racists".
I think the issue...
I think the issues around Europe really concern
far more people than, certainly, the Labour Party realises.
I am not concerned about the rise of UKIP.
Emily Thornberry, you're out of all this, of course, cos you're...
-How long have I got?
-You've got about 45 seconds.
OK, in 45 seconds, I'd say, of course they've got to leave the coalition.
They will not be forgiven unless they do.
They've been propping up this Tory government for too long.
Without them, we'd not have had changes to the health service.
Without them, we'd not have had changes to tuition fees
or having these terrible cuts.
APPLAUSE People will never forgive them.
And it's about time they pulled out. People want another government.
We'd like to have an election.
Let's get ourselves a proper government
that will deal with this deficit and debt in a responsible way.
-In a responsible way and get us out of the recession.
-That's what people want.
Thank you, not least for finishing in 45 seconds. You can come back.
Our time is up. Next week we're going to be in Central London,
as America gets ready to elect a new president.
We've got Jerry Springer, the controversial television presenter.
He used to be mayor of Cincinnati for the Democrats.
We've got the former Foreign Secretary, David Miliband,
and we have a prominent, but as yet unnamed,
Mitt Romney supporter there with us, to see balance.
So, that's next week.
The week after that, we're going to be in Bexhill, in Sussex.
If you'd like to come to either Central London, or to Bexhill,
just visit our website, the address is on the screen there.
Or call us...
Thanks you for watching. Thanks to our panel.
Thanks to all who came to Slough to take part.
Until next Thursday, from Question Time, good night.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
David Dimbleby presents Question Time from Slough. He is joined by a panel comprising business secretary Vince Cable, shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry, Claire Perry, UKIP deputy leader Paul Nuttall and Mehdi Hasan, political director of the Huffington Post website.