13/12/2012 Question Time


David Dimbleby presents Question Time from Bristol. The panel includes Justine Greening MP, Stella Creasy MP, Lord Bilimoria, Will Self and Peter Hitchens.

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We are coming to the end of 2012, and sadly this is the last edition


of a very eventful year. Welcome to Question Time.


Good evening and a particularly big welcome to our audience in Bristol,


and to our panel, the Secretary of State for International Development,


Justine Greening, the shadow Home Office Minister for Labour, Stella


Creasy, the founder of Cobra beer and a cross-bencher in the House of


Lords, Lord Bilimoria, the author and professor of contemporary


thought at Brunel University, Will Self, and the columnist for the


Mail on Sunday, Peter Hitchens. APPLAUSE


Your morning paper may have said, and if you read the Times, it would


indeed have said, that James Harding, the editor would have been


on the panel tonight, but sadly tonight he announced he was


resigning from the editorship and therefore he couldn't come on the


panel. We hope to have him back in some other equally distinguished


guise one day. I do have to remind viewers that our panel do not know


the questions that are going to be put to them, do you? No. Thank you.


The first question is from Warren Birch please. Is the large number


of Tory MPs opposing gay marriage symptomatic of a party out of touch


with modern society? The large number of Tory MPs


opposing gay marriage, proposed and of course endorsed by the Prime


Minister. Will Self? particularly out of touch, the


figures are 55-45 on the marriage issue, 55 in favour. By and large


people are in favour of civil partnerships but there seems to be


this view abroad that marriage is only made of a man and a woman,


whatever they may be, and thaw can't get married if you are of the


same sex. A lot of people seem to go back to, particularly I think


the gospel according to Mark and one of the other gospels in order


to establish this fact that it has to be a man and a woman. Some of


these people are Tory MPs, they seem to want to literally interpret


this particular bit of scripture, but there are other bits that they


are quite happy to disregard, like the creation of the Earth in seven


days. And resting on the seventh day. That would be good. They are


per petly working, so I rather mistrust this surge in biblical


literalism which seems to grip the anti-gay marriage lobby. If you are


asking my personal opinion, I think just about anybody should be


allowed to get married to anybody else, but there you go. APPLAUSE


Justine Greening? I very much agree with Will. It is something that I


have certainly thought about. the questioner or with Will? With


Will's answer. There's a breadth of opinion in the Conservative and in


Parliament, there'll be a free vote on it. Something that I have had to


consider. From my perspective, I think as Will does, if people want


to get married they should be allowed to get on and do that. As


long as we've got the right protections in place for churchs


that don't want to allow gay marriage, that's fine. That then


respects every's right to get on with their life the way that they


want to. Why should gay couples will entitled to either a civil


partnership or marriage, whereas heterosexual couples are only


entitled to get married, not to have a civil partnership? I don't


think there's a lot of demand. I have never had a constituent who is


heterosexual ask me why they can't have a civil partnership with their


partner. I don't think there is a lot of demand for civil


partnerships for heterosexual couples. I think the question is


whether we are willing to give gay people equal rights in terms of


being able to get married. Having spent a lot of time thinking about


it, I think it's the right thing to do. I don't think we should stand


in the way of two people who want to make a lifetime commitment to


one another. As long as we are clear that we don't force churches


and people of faith who don't feel comfortable with that to have their


own churches having to do marriages, I think you get everybody able to


have their own rights to live their life how they want. The question


was about the 100 or so Tory MPs who oppose it and whether this is


symptomatic of a party out of touch. The Prime Minister is going for it


but a large number of his backbenchers are against. I very


much respect their opinion but I disagree with it. Aren't they just


homophobic these MPs? That's what it looks like to me, they don't


like day people. The simplestics plannation is they don't like gay


people. Get over it, as Matt Lucas might say. The woman up there on


the back. I think it is a travesty that they've tried to enact this


liberalising, accepting policy on the surface but then announced that


within the Church of England and the Church of Wales it is illegal


to enforce these churchs to enact a ceremony. Yes, that's just them


creating a loophole to continue pandering to the homophobic


prejudiced sections of people that are within that party, and that


support that party. That's a traevesty in our day and age, in a


liberal, progressive society. going to be illegal for the Church


of England to perform one. Peter Hitchens? If you want to know where


the Conservative Party is out of touch with the people who once were


Conservatives and would like to vote for it, and the reason the


Conservative Party is dying on its feet and has no members, it is not


to do with this. It is because the Conservative Party is in favour of


the European Union. It is against punishing criminals. Notice favour


of the failed comprehensive experiment in education. The


Conservative Party is in favour of mass immigration. That's why the


Conservative Party is out of touch. The issue of same sex marriage is


so immensely trivial and unimportant, it is only raised as a


wind-up to draw poor silly old Conservatives out of their caves so


that they can be made to look like bigots and fools and howled at and


jeered at as homophobes. Why would the Prime Minister want to do that?


Because he hates his party. He hates most of the members of it.


And he wants to drag them down to defeat, is that what you are


saying? He lovers to appeal to the Guardian newspaper and the BBC by


bark his own party and having rows with this. I don't imagine he cares


in the slightest about the issue. Maybe he does, but he doesn't care


or believe in anything else, so it would be a change if he did. Mr


Slippery behaves like this. He just tries to wind up what's left of his


own party, because he thinks that's his only future, to make the


liberal bigots, who genuinely hate and loathe people with Conservative


moral opinions and have no time of them and misrepresent them and lie


about them, to make them think he is a good thing. Justine Greening


is seething with rage and wants to come to the defence of her leader.


I think what David Cameron is trying to do represent a broad


strand of what the Conservative Party is about today, and just to


come back to your point about the Church of England and Wales, the


reason that there's got to be a law in place is because at the moment


the Church of England and Wales doesn't want to allow same sex


marriages. Because of the way in which they are set up within our


country, we therefore have to put that into law. But if they did want


to allow it, we would of course be quite happy to change the law for


them to do that. What we are trying to do is make sure that every


religious organisation has the ability to make its own choice


about whether it wants to allow same sex marriages or not. They are


the established Church. Their Bishops sit in Parliament. And they


should have the choice as well. Stella Creasy? It is incredibly


ironic that all these people who claim that they are Liberals, that


they care about conservatism, when it comes to something like this,


one of the most traditional conservative things in our society,


to make a commitment to somebody for life, they don't want it. It


seems like they want to be a small state liberal in the Treasury but a


big state liberal in the bedroom, telling people what kind of


relationship they want to have. I think that everyone in my community


who wants to make a commitment to each other, a really serious,


loving commitment, should be able to do so. I don't think it should


be up to the state to decide how they do that. I think we should let


religious organisations do it. It is disappointing, and I speak as a


member of the Church of England, to see the legislation cast in this


way. There is a precedent about how the Church dealt with priests who


did not want to remarry people who were divorced, making sure they


were not required to do so rather than explicitly banning it. I


respect the Church of England is in this place at the moment but I hope


that at some point we come to a different place. I think it what be


sad if we had to wait for legislation to make that happen. I


think the state should back out of this and let people who want to get


married get married and show their love for each other equally.


Without it being about gender, but making it about love and commitment.


APPLAUSE I was going to say, isn't the issue


less about 100 or so Tory MPs and more about a Church that won't let


gay people get married and won't let women be Bishops? APPLAUSE


TALK AT ONCE Hang on, Peter. hanging on. Hang on for a bit


longer. Lord Bilimoria. We've had civil partnerships for some time


and that's been working well. They haven't been allowed to call it


married. But to me that is semantics. They are married. If we


want same sex marriages in rimmous establishments, if religious


institutions and establishments want to do, that we should allow


them to do that. What we should never do is force anyone to do that


if they don't want to. The people objecting to this, not because they


are homophobic. Quite often it is because of their own religious


beliefs. What I love about this country is we are an open country.


We celebrate the multicultural society. Is your church, the Zorro


ast reen church in favour? religion doesn't want to allow it,


we should not force it. That's is sort of open country that we are.


APPLAUSE And what's the position of the Zorro Astrian church? On the


whole it's a liberal church. I don't know where they would stand


on this, but I would never force them to do anything like this.


don't trust Ms Greening or Mr Cameron when they give assurances


that those churches that don't wish to be involved in this won't have


to be. That's either naive at best or disingenuous at worst. In what


way? I suspect there is no way that the European Court of Human Rights


will stand for a situation if marriage is redefined whereby a


religious institution is prepared to offer marriage to one eligible


section of society - straight couples - but not another. I think


that the European Court of Human Rights will have absolutely no


truck with that. And your view on the issue of gay marriage? In


favour or against? I believe with the greatest of respect to


homosexual couples that same sex marriage is not possible. You mean


you don't think it's real? I don't think it can exist by its very


nature. For example, I don't believe that... It was interesting


what you said, Will, in the start of your answer, that you would be


happy for virtually anyone to marry virtually anyone else. Just in the


same way - the natural extrapolation of that is we could


arrive at the situation where very close relatives could marry each


other No, it is not. It is a misnomer to suggest there is an


equivalence. We are talking about two people making a loving


commitment to each other. In that is what marriage should be about.


It is that love and commitment, not about the gender of the person


involved. Who is the head of the Church - God or the Government? On


the one hand you are saying... Government. There you go. The


Church I go to... It is an established church. In the biblical


church is God is the head, not the Government. It stops following its


constitution, which is the word of God, which is the Bible, and starts


following the Government. No. gentlemen is correct. In a decade


or so from now, when the touches of changed and it stops being about


same sex couples and maybe close relative, we'll be having the same


debate. You cannot stretch the word of God to accommodate your own


ideas. You either are for or against. You've said love and


commitment towards the couple. What about love and commitment towards


your God? If I say I love God and I do not believe that marriage


between a same sex couple is correct, I'm called homophobic. You


don't tell me that I don't love or committed to God. You call me a


homophobic. What does that make you? You celebrate your beliefs but


I think the response and the questions we have had back from the


audience shows why it's so important to make sure you have got


all the right protection in place to make sure that churches that


don't want to do some sex marriage don't have to. I completely respect


your views and the views of the gentleman behind as well. It's one


of the reasons why making sure we have got the safeguards in the Bill


in Parliament is so important so your church is never in the


position where you're being forced position where you're being forced


into doing same-sex marriage in a way you don't want to. It's illegal


isn't it for a priest to marry one, what if he wants to marry them?


That's a debate for the Church of England to have. We could make it


permissive, rather than exclusive legislation, allow to church to


decide itself. We could get the state out of these decisions,


rather than exclude it. Then why do we have a state church? You are an


Anglican, it's an established church. Let me see if I can answer


Stella's point. The reason we need to structure the law the way that


we have is in response to making sure the Church of England and


vicars and priests are protected from having legal cases brought


against them. It's a debate for the Church of England to have. If they


want to allow same-sex marriages, that's a debate for them to have.


This is a different way in which you could do this which would mean


you wouldn't exclude it but you wouldn't require it. You could give


them the protection where people see this debate as excluding them.


You could give the church the decision to do this. We've looked


at that and that didn't provide good enough safeguards for some of


the concerns. So to protect people in the Church of England who don't


want to do gay marriages, you have to make it illegal for the Church


of England to have gay marriages, thus preventing people in the


Church of England who do want to celebrate gay marriages from


celebrating? Essentially, it's making sure that the decision


around whether we have same-sex marriages in the Church of England


and Wales is a matter for that church. We have to come back to


Parliament. Do you know how many people in this country as a


proportion to the population is in same sex marriages, one fifth of


one%. It affects a small number of people. We have just learned from


the census that a marriage as an institution in general in this


country is rapidly diminishing and more and more people are not


married for many, many reasons, mainly the result of Government


actions which have weakened it. What is going on here is not a


liberation of homosexuals but an attempt to impose on the whole


society a new bigotry under which those who happen to hold the


opinion that homosexual marriage should not take place will not just


be excluded from the centre of things, they will increasingly be


handed and treated as pa hiyas just in fact as homosexuals were treated


before the 1967 law was rightly repealed -- pariahs. There is an


immense, furious liberal bigotry said by Will Self. This extremely


unpleasant lie is repeatedly told by those who do not wish to debate


the subject and who'd hound anybody who stood in their way out of it


with abecause and lies. This is the problem which this country faces.


If you have a problem with this, don't propose to a gay man. We will


not tolerate and increasingly wishes to... Do you think we are


going to be arresting you in toilets and subjecting you to


aversion electric shock aversion. Do you know what, Will, I think the


time is coming when people who have Conservative Christian opinions


will actually face persecution of one kind or another. It hasn't come


yet, but the problem is that we have become some willing and


conventional wisdom's so willing to accept the liberal majority and the


equality and diversity which is now compulsory in all public services


in this country which you have to abide by to work in the Public


Services. The freedom of speak and think otherwise is increasing.


Let's move on. Thank you, Pete esh. You can join in the debate through


Twitter: We have a Twitterist tonight called full fact, an


organisation which fact checks claims made by politicians and


media, so the panel should watch out. We should always have one. You


can also find them on the extra guest account or you can text


comments to us. A question from Andrew Jardine,


please. With almost three million more foreign residents since 2001,


is Britain no longer British? Three million more residents and


13% of people in Britain now born outside the UK. Is Britain no


longer British? Lord Bilimoria? came to this country as a 19-year-


old to study. This is a most amazing country which has given me


the opportunity to build a life over here, to study. I've seen a


transformation of this country over the last three decades, it's a


country with a glass ceiling where if you were a foreigner you were


told you would not be able to get to the top to a country now where I


believe there is meritocracy and opportunity regardless of race or


background. I've seen it unfold and it's the most amazing country. Good


immigration has been fantastic for this country and a lot of the


immigrants have come here and done it with nothing. We are celebrating


the 40th anniversary of the Ugandan nations, we were thrown out by I


diAmin. The question is, is Britain no longer British, how would you


answer that? You You talk about the fact that less than 50% of


Londoners are of ethnic origin and not from here. It's the most


cosmopolitan city in the world. I'm really proud to be Indian, Asian


and most of all, British and what this country stands for.


APPLAUSE Hitchens, you were touching on this


before, but what is your view? immigration on this scale is


unprecedented in the history of this country. There has been


nothing like it. The problem with immigration on this scale is that,


of course, immigrants can come here and become British if they are


given the chance to do so, if the society which welcomes them says,


you're very welcome here but we want you to integrate and become


part of our country. Far from doing that, our country's encouraged


multiculturalism to Sol tueds which have nothing to do with each other


and live apart. There's been that and also the fact that the sheer


scale of this means there are now I think millions of homes, I'm sure,


fat check.com or whoever they are I'm sure will tell us, where there


are adult who is don't speak English. You can't be a society


unless most of those share things in common, one is language, one is


law, one is you might say a sense of humour. We are less British and


that's the idea because when New Labour launched the mass


immigration policy, as a deliberate act of policy, this is the account


of a New Labour AndrewNeter who said that the policy included a


driving political purpose that mass immigration was the way the


Government would make the UK truly multicultural and that the main


purpose was to rub the right's nose in diversity and render their


arguments out-of-date. That's been achieved. That was a driving


political purpose to change this country irversibly. It's been


achieved. That lot did it and they are going for the next election.


They are Bohemians who enjoy all parts of mass immigration, the


cheap restaurants that they so dearly love, they don't care what


else happens to the rest of the country. The reason I might be fat


is because I went to 80 street parties during the Jubilee in my


community, I ate hundreds of pieces of cake. My community is exactly


the sort of place that peet Peter is talking about. I would love you


to come down and meet people from Walthamstow. It's what community


meant in... I can travel round my own country freely thanks.


offering to let you come and see the kinds of things we are talking


about this evening because we have a very diverse community in


Walthamstow. We have challenges that we have to face, but we also


have a strength that comes from that diversity. The same people are


organising all the fantastic street parties, they were cheering on


people like Mo Farah who they saw as a classic example of what


Britishness stands for. What does it stand for for you because that's


the question, is Britain no lorpbg British? I look at Mo Farah and he


makes me proud because he's... does British mean? He embodies


tolerance and commitment and that's what we saw in the Olympics. We


deal with that in Walthamstow every day. Peter, you all get angry as


soon as you talk about having a parking zone wherever they come


from. Answer the question at the back


there? I don't think you can define Britishness because it means


different things to different people. Immigration is fantastic,


enriching the fabric of the society. APPLAUSE


Justine Greening? I think we have had huge uncontrolled mass


immigration over the last decade and I think the census really


showed just how big it's been, pretty much a city the size of


Birmingham in terms of the extra population that came in.


Nevertheless, I think you look at the Olympics, I'm a London MP, the


volunteers were from the whole of London, they were fantastic, that


is London today and actually, this is Britain today and the key to


success is making the best of the people that we've got and making


the most of the fact that yes, we are a diverse nation, we are


diverse communities, mine certainly is and we have to make that ours a


sets in the future. I think we can have a big debate about whether


Labour's policy on immigration was good or bad. I happen to think it


was bad to just allow uncontrolled numbers of people to come into the


country without having a strategy for how Public Services would cope


and how housing would cope with them. But the bottom line is, we


are Britain today and we have to make the best of that. I think, as


the gentleman said, it means different things to different


people, but there are some core values there, of fair play,


creativity, of a fantastic sense of humour, of competitiveness, of


being entrepreneurs and we've been at our best when we have been, not


just strong at home, but when we have been out there helping shape


the world around us too and we need to continue that. Why does your


Government have this immigration cap then, to have a crude


instrument like a cap when you just implement that, you are deterring


the good immigration, the people who're coming in that have enriched


this country like the gentleman there said, with an immigration cap,


you are turning people away. With the UK Border Agency, if I


challenge them, they wouldn't be able to tell you how many illegal


immigrants in this country, round it up 2010 0,000. London


Metropolitan University in one swoop they told the 2,5050 students


there -- 2,500 go... The message that sends out to the rest of the


world is, Britain doesn't want foreign students and if you come


here, you don't know if you are going to finish your studies or not.


That's absolutely not the case. There is no limit on the numbers of


students that can come to the UK to have English if they've got the


funds for their course and if they're signed up to a proper


degree. So really, that is simply not the case. Why do you include


student numbers in immigration numbers? Let's leave that argument


for another time. There needs a cap on migration most


people would recognise. The man sitting patiently with his hand in


the air there. Thank you ever so much. Isn't the problem necessarily


not the people we have coming into this country who want to be British,


but more so the people who're already born in this country who


decide that actually they are not British but they are just English.


I'm very fortunate because I have a grandmother who's Scottish and a


great grand port who is Welsh and I was born here in Bristol so I


consider myself to be fundamentally British except for the Irish, but


we are working on that -- grandmother. The problem is we have


people now who fundamentally say they are English. Who are these


people? I have many friends who say, "I'm English" and "In Scotland you


have Alex Salmond having an independent Scotland". You would


like people to feel British? Britishness is an important thing.


People in Britain is what makes Britain, Britain. You've got all


these diverse communities. There's loads of them around Britain, all


coming together to be British is what makes Britain. If you think


about it, for example, my granddad, he's Hungarian. Back in the day -


I'm not sure how many years ago - he ran his own hot dog stand in


Bristol. He's part British. He is putting British history in a view...


I can't make out where you are coming from. That's a point well


made. Will Self, 4 million foreign residents since 2001. People have


said Britain has many different meanings to many different people.


I think up to the Suez crisis in 1952, sorry, '56? '56. I remember


it. Of course you do. You were probably in the front line!


LAUGHTER APPLAUSE Thank you for the on the


spot fact checking, Peter. Most people's conception of what being


British involved was basically going overseas and subjugating


black and brown people and taking their stuff and the fruits of their


labours. That was a core part of British identity, the British


emfire. Now, various members of the political class have try to revive


that idea recently without much success. So if we are talking about


what an integral conception of Britishness is, it is quite anti-


thetical to the idea of a multicultural nation. It is in


favour of a multicultural empire, which is quite a different thing.


Addressing the young man who there is concerned about our relationship


with Scotland and Wales and Ireland, who were often employed as the


shock troop of the British empire to go in and appropriate this stuff.


So if your idea of Britain is the British empire, this is no longer


that, quite clearly. That's my answer. And the scale of


immigration revealed by the sense news the last ten years, are you


happy about that? Weirdly enough it is a bit like the issue of gay


marriage, in that people who line up on the opposition to immigration


are usually racists. No, they are. They have an antipathy to people,


particularly with black and brown skins. The bigoted... You've had


your crack, Peter. unwillingness to listen to an


opposition opinion. Liberal bigotry is the worst of all, because it


thinks it is so unen lightened. was just making a point. It could


probably be fact checked. It is easy to complain about the level of


immigration, but I agree with the gentleman who said it is part of


our island culture. I wonder if we would have ever built the motorway


network without the help of the Irish or won the Battle of Britain


without the help of the Polish airmen. Next question please.


fair to vilify the two Australian DJs for the unintended tragic


consequences of their hoax phone call? Justine Greening? I think


what they did was hugely irresponsible. I think having said


that, nobody really could have predicted what tragic outcome would


have resulted from their prank. I think the reality is that it was an


Australian talk show and radio show. If it hadn't been reported so


widely in the UK, I don't know whether the nurse would have been


quite so aware of the story itself. It is incredibly tragic. I think


everybody involved is obviously gutted. I think really the most


important thing right now is that her family is allowed some privacy


to get on with what has been a huge personal tragedy for them. I think


the media circus around it really needs to stop now. We need to allow


them to come to terms with what's happened, which has been absolutely


horrible. Stella Creasy? I'm really sorry, but I feel so uncomfortable


about us having this as a conversation. All I think of is


there's a family who has lost their mum ten days before Christmas. The


last thing they need is us speculating about what happened and


talking about it on TV. I'm sorry, David. If we really believe they


need privacy, they need people not the be speculating about this stuff


in public. I don't want to talk about it. I'm sorry. APPLAUSE


man in blue. I believe there's probably more than one cause of


this suicide. This will come out eventually. I think the part that


the Samaritans have to play in preventing suicides needs greater


publicity. Just to clar nigh, the question was not about Jacintha


Saldanha but about the attack on the two DJs for what's began as a


prank. That's the point. Where it went wrong was not in making the


phone call, but subsequently the DJs said they handed the tapes on


and they were checked. I think that, at that point it shouldn't have


gone any further. They said lawyers had been involved. However, the


station continued to put the tapes out and replay the conversation


over and over again. That must have been just blatant commercialism,


bringing from the Australian pounds. Will Self? Yes, I was walking down


Horseferry Road this morning past the Coroner's Court. There were


about maybe as many as 100 members of the media outside the Coroner's


Court waiting for what everybody knew would not be substantive


information. This is just part of a kind of wider media feeding frenzy


that exists. What's the centre of this media feeding frenzy? A young


woman's pregnancy actually. And why is this young woman's pregnancy of


such vital and all-consuming interest that these media


organisations are hungry for it? Because it's all about the


succession of the British monarchy. That's the really important thing


about this young woman's pregnancy. If you take the royal element out


of this, there is no story there whatsoever. So just another good


reason for a republic I think. APPLAUSE You Sir. I think this is


symptomatic of ow ridiculing television has become. The hoax


phone call is surely symptomatic of that. Lord Bilimoria? What really


gets me about this is that this prank, and pranks have always taken


place and will always take place. If there are no pranks, it is a


very boring world. But I don't play a prank on a hospital. You don't


call a hospital... APPLAUSE Where you are dealing with people's lives,


and then you try and get information about people in a


hospital, which is really private information. It doesn't matter that


it may be the future Queen of England. Anyone's information they


are trying to get from a hospital through a prank is not on. I don't


think they should have done it. The station has a lot to blame for


condoning it and allowing it to happen. Real lessons need to be


learned from this. APPLAUSE Look, it is easy to say that it is the


media's fault but there is a lot of hypocrisy around. Particularly when


we first heard that the call had been made, people thought it was


quite funny. It wasn't until it had its tragic ending that we all


realised that it quite so amusing after all. We all have to look at


ourselves. You Sir? Being Australian, I feel quite


responsible, even though it wasn't me. I think if it could get back to


them I would like to apologise on behalf of Australia that that has


happened. You don't have to do that. It is sad and devastating.


Australians are always looking for a bit of fun, always looking for a


joke. That might be good, that might be bad, but it is very sad


that this has blown out of all proportion. Australians will always


try to make light of situations, have fun. Maybe we made a mistake


on it, and the people on the station made a mistake, but I don't


think you can put sole blame on them for this. It is important


being Australian that that would be very, very gutted and disappointed


that this came across like this. Peter Hitchens? If I may answer the


original question - no. OK. Thank you very much.


Let's go to another question. Dennis Detheridge, please.


Should the use of illegal drugs be decriminalised? This is in the late


of Keith Vaz, who runs the Home Affairs Select Committee,


suggesting that the Government sets up a Royal Commission now to look


at drugs. We've been through this endlessly about drugs, be but he


now wants a full Royal Commission in the light of various arguments


that have been put. So should the use of illegal drugs be


decriminalised? Justine Greening. No, in a nutshell. The level of


drug usage is at an all-time low. We are starting to see many of the


programmes and treatment... It is actually. Compared to what, 1630?


It is moving in the right direction is the point I'm maifplgt we are


starting to see a lot of the treatment programmes getting much


better rates of getting people off drugs. Personally I think it would


send out a really bad signal to start legalising drugs which I


believe often see people end up on a rocky road to a situation where


they want the harder stuff. We've looked at this endlessly. The idea


that we should then kick off another commission to look at this.


We know what the issues are. I think it is a question of politics


really. What people think is the right approach to them. My personal


view is I don't think we should decriminalise drufplgtz I think it


sends out the wrong message. who are these MPs? It is across


party isn't? All the Select Committee. Don't think you know


anything about it much Justine, I get that strong feeling - that you


know nothing at all about it. alternatively may just have a


different view to me. How many registered addicts do you think


there were in Britain in 1965? wasn't alive in 1965. I rest my


case. You know all about this, so you had answer the question. And


remember that Fact Check are watching you. There are many tens


of hundreds of thousands of people many in receipt of the heroin


substitute methadone. My own drug history, which includes a long


period of addiction, is well known publicly. I don't really want to


speak from that position. What I do know about the situation with drugs


in this country is that quite clearly the system of prohibition,


if that's what it is, it doesn't work. It's a law that's widely


flouted. Statistically there'll be people in this audience who are


users of illegal drugs and most of them will be non-problematic. The


number of people who who are addicts as against social users is


a significant proportion but by no means the majority. Far from what


Justine is saying, the systems in place for people who do have


problematic if not a pathological problem with drugs are incredibly


poor in this country, for a variety of reasons. Perhaps as many as 0%


of people in our prisons -- 70% of people in our prisons have a drink


or drug problem. Really the Government should be doing much


more about it there. Is some willingness, interestingly...


That's not an argument for legalising it. You can make the


argument that treatment should get better, and you are right, but


that's not an argument for legalising it. ALL TALK AT ONCE


Hold on, Peter. No, it is time somebody said something intefplgt


fact Check can work on these. We have decriminalised drugs in this


country. If you are caught in possession, if the police can even


be bothered with somebody caught in possession of somebody with


cannabis, the most likely treatment is the cannabis warning, which was


invented by the police, not even asked for, which means you are let


off. In 1973, the well known Trotskyist Lord Hailsham instructed


magistrates to stop sending people to prison if they were in receipt


of cannabis. Why do they want a Royal Commission? Because there is


a well financed international campaign to legalise drugs so that


various wicked people can make large sums of money out of selling


them. Peter, there is no... There is no such thing thing as ho


Hillsboroughis. That is the most abject lie told by the people.


many people in this country do you think at this moment is in


possession of illegal drugs? I have no idea. How would I know? There


are statistics for it. You tell us. If you no, you say. I would say in


excess of 1 million people. You are going to have to build a lot of


prisons. Who said anything which enablinged you to say that? The


point of having a proper criminal law which is prosecuted and used is


not to put people in prison but to deter people committing stupid


crimes. That's why we have laws about drink-driving.


It is so simple. Anyone can answer Isn't it time we had a real


conversation about alternatives to criminalising drug users and


perhaps looking more at perhaps the Portuguese method where users are


offered rehabilitation access to medical advice and treatment, as


opposed to sending them down the criminal justice route, putting


more burden on the criminal justice system and essentially, as some


panellists said, creating a perpetual problem, as it were?


do that already, that's what we have been doing for 40 years.


you, Hitchens. People need to deal with some facts on this, instead of


propaganda. Stella? Actually, the experience in Portugal's been


pretty mixed but that's why this was an important report. This


report didn't call for legalisation or decriminalisation. It called for


the kind of debate. Justine, we may know some of the issues and answers


about what treatment does or doesn't work but what the report


highlighted was that the two aren't going together. That's why they


talked about having a Royal Commission. We spend �15 billion


trying to deal with the consequences of substance abuse


within our health care and criminal justice testimony so I think


there's room to look at what else might make a difference -- justice


system. It's about how you treat people and deal with addiction


because the consequences of not doing something about it are very


great for our society. I think it's a shame the Government dismissed


out of hand what was a reasoned piece of research and argument


about this being a decision that needs to happen, not just by 650


people in Parliament but needs a broader debate with perhaps even Mr


Self and Mr Hitchens taking part in that debate at the same time if


they'd let each other. The man there? It's a good idea to look at


this. We have had 40 or 50 years of this so-called war on drugs and all


it's done has make the people who grow and smuggle and sell drugs


rich and it's caused huge amounts of harm to society, people whose


homes are broken into and robbed, it's achieved nothing. We need to


step away from this, not look at it and making all drugs legal and as a


free-for-all, but a sensible policy which says if you are addicted to


heroin or crack or something, let's try doing a deal with you, if you


behave yourself, we'll gef you your happy powder and stop the drug


dealers making a fortune out of it -- give you your happy powder.


Lord Bilimoria? In countries like Holland, in certain states in the


United States, where they've tried to liberalise the usage of drugs,


it hasn't necessarily worked that well and I think the real problem


for me, my biggest fear is my children getting into drugs and


getting addicted to drugs, and what I try to do is educate them and say


don't do it. Not everyone gets addicted, you are absolutely right.


You got a peerage for flogging beer! Lord bail Bilimoria?


selling fantastic beer and we always encourage responsible


drinking! Back to the point, I think it's not about, we talk about


the treatment, it's about prevention, how can we educate


youngsters to stay away from drugs? Decriminalising them is not the


answer, it's not as simple as that. Another question from Lizzie


Morrell, please? Do you believe that the Housing


Minister was right to advise against giving food or money to


homeless people? This was Mark Prisk on Tuesday saying, donts give


money to the homeless, Christmas coming up, give them a telephone


number for a new charity and other people will look after them. Stella


Creasy? When we are seeing the levels of debt, the levels of


personal deprivation that's happening in our communities, it's


not surprising to me that we are seeing more people sleeping rough.


It's a fear for me. I spent two- and-a-half years campaigning about


legal loan sharking, trying to get the Government to do something


about those people charging huge amounts for loans because I could


see people in my community living with that cost. It's no surprise


that people have ended up on the streets and, as a basic point for


us, in society, as we deal with it. I work at my local night shelter.


I'm so worried this Government doesn't take the cost-of-living


serious because of the consequences we are seeing as a result. When you


think your housing costs go up. My part of London, it's predicted


rents will rise 25% over the next couple of years. You are veering


off the subject here. It's about how we deal with homelessness. It's


a function of society. The Housing Minister said "Most people know


that giving money or food won't help a rough sleeper find a home,


get the health care they need or simply put them in touch with


support available. Do you think that giving money or food doesn't


help? I don't think it's an either or. I work with the night shelter,


I give them food and fund-raise for them because we need them. I was it


wasn't the case and I'll fight for policies that mean we don't end up


with people living on the streets and end up with the level of debt


they have now which means they have to make those kind of choices.


Justine Greening? I don't think anybody wants to see homelessness


and what Mark was saying was what we need to do when we see people is


make sure they get help. I think perpetuating their circumstances


doesn't do them any good at all and I think what he was trying to do,


which I think he did very well because we are talking about it now,


is highlight that there is far more support there for homeless people


and that actually, what we all should be doing is trying to make


sure that when we see people like that, that we help them get that


support that's there. You, Sir, on the front row. You two, you on the


left first, then you? My view is, obviously, since I've been here in


Bristol, as a student, I've been out in the town sometimes quite


late and I've seen people that need or asked for money or food.


Personally, I believe that to not do much for them but it shows


there's a level of compassion that, there are people who walk past them


in the street and actually do care. But in terms of a long-term effect,


it doesn't do much so maybe something could be put in place to


support them or give them a number or just something to show that that


will have a longer lasting effect, rather than just feeding their


bellies. The man next to you? doesn't the Housing Minister


arrange for more houses to be built for homeless people? That's exactly


what we are doing. Local authorities are releasing public


land so we can get houses built, the Mayor in London is getting more


houses built. We are starting from a position of record low housing


stock since the 20s, but we are trying to improve that and we've


got a mole range of policies, not just to get houses built but to


help young people in particular be able to afford to buy them.


But Housing Benefit is already showing signs of people being


thrown out by landlords? recognise the welfare system got


out of whack. That's not what I asked you. A thousand families in


Walthamstow will have their Housing Benefit capped next year. There is


no spare housing. They are going to be homeless or end up with the


legal loan sharks, neither of which is a good outcome. We'll all end up


paying the costs of these families. APPLAUSE First of all, we are


saying that the sorts of Housing Benefit that we were seeing in some


parts of particularly London... I've not answered the question that


was put, you don't know what I was about to say. You talk about levels


of Housing Benefit people were claiming in London. There were a


handful of families that were getting more than �50,000 a year


Housing Benefit. You have just concentrated... In the UK, it's


about �24,000. What we are saying is that people in the public sector


needing supported housing should face the same choices as people


who're in the privats sector. don't want to go into that --


private sector. We were talking about the spillage from this, the


immediate spillage which has been reported. Hitchens, what is your


view about what the Housing Minister said? Give what you can to


a good, effective charity that will help these people out of the


problems into which they've fallen. Each time you may out of the


softness of your heart want to give people money because people do,


they see someone sitting in the street and think, that person, I


ought to give them something so they will, it may not do any good,


I don't necessarily think it will do any harm but it does much more


good if you put aside the money for a charity, there are plenty of them,


easy to find, at this time of year especially, put money into them and


it will do more good than politician will ever do you, that's


for certain. I run a food bank and there are 100,000 of those in


Britain. I'm ashamed to be living in a country where food banks have


had to come back because people are so worried.


APPLAUSE Surely homelessness is a complex


problem and just simply giving someone food and drink is not


actually going to really deal with the problem. It requires agencies


to work together and it requires a joined up thinking and I'm


convinced that's probably not the case at the moment. It requires the


Government not to put them into destitution. Will Self? Charity is


a sop that floats into societies as thaiz become more gather tearian.


You look at our society over the past 30, 40 years, the Gulf between


the richest and poorest has increased and we have more Red Nose


Days and telethons in order to help us feel better act the fact that


people are living in poverty, so what Peter suggests is just another


sticking plaster. We require a society where there isn't this with


people on the street. The woman in white there? Why do we have to rely


on charitys to help the homeless? Why at Christmas does an individual


who wants a hot meal and shelter have to go to a Crisis shelter? Why


is it all charitable giving and not actually from central Government?


Charities are better at it. point that you have just made, this


country, less than 1% of the population of the world here, and


we are still, without the empire, one of the ten wealthiest countries


in the world in absolute terms. It's phenomenal. Our welfare state,


�200 billion into welfare and pensions and still you have


homeless people and still you have poverty and child poverty in this


country. What I think is amazing, nothing is perfect, Government


tries its best, it's not always perfect. What I love about this


country is the charitable spirit, the number of charities they are


that will fill that gap with the Armed Forces charitys that I've


worked with, there are so many of the homeless who're former


sholdiers and there's no reason for them to be there but there there


because it's a complex situation. We are lucky to have an amazing


country that fill the gap of the charities. That's all we have got


time for. Time's up. This is last programme of the year. We come back


on the 10th January. We are going to be in Lewisham in South London.


We are going to be in Lincoln on 17th January, so if you would like


17th January, so if you would like to come on the 10th to Lewisham or


17th to Lincoln, apply on the website. The address is on the


screen, or call that number: It would be very good to see you.


Thank you to the panel and all of you who came to the City academy


here in Bristol, the first set up in Britain under the Labour


Government. From all of us on Question Time, everybody who works


David Dimbleby presents Question Time from Bristol. On the panel: Justine Greening MP, Secretary of State for International Development; Stella Creasy MP, Shadow Home Office Minister; Cross-bench peer Lord Bilimoria, founder of Cobra Beer; author Will Self, and Peter Hitchens, Columnist for the Mail on Sunday.

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