David Dimbleby chairs Question Time from Aldershot. Panelists include Michael Howard, Caroline Flint MP, Sarah Teather MP, Amanda Platell and Griff Rhys Jones.
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Tonight we're in Aldershot and welcome to Question Time.
And good evening to you at home, good evening to our audience here
and welcome to our panel -
the former leader of the Conservative party, Michael Howard.
Labour's Shadow Energy Secretary, Caroline Flint.
Liberal Democrat who used to be in the Cabinet looking after
children's affairs, Sarah Teather,
the Daily Mail columnist Amanda Platell,
and the comedian and television presenter Griff Rhys Jones.
Excellent. Thank you very much.
A question from Hector Cameron to kick off, please.
Why should some people get more than £500 per week on benefits
when I only earn £450 a week working 46 hours?
Why should some people... This is what happened this week,
the introduction of the cap on benefits at £500.
Why should some people get over 500 when I only earn 450,
-says Hector Cameron. As what, incidentally?
-I do CNC engineering.
-CNC work on CNC machines.
-You probably won't know what that is.
-No, I'm afraid I don't.
I won't ask you. Amanda Platell.
Well, Hector, the simple truth is it is completely unfair that people
who go out to work like you take home less money than people
who stay at home. This is quite...
It's quite controversial, this cap,
but it's probably the most popular thing that this government has ever
brought in. I wish they were doing it...
I know Iain Duncan Smith is doing it through conviction,
I'm not sure David Cameron has embraced it for the same reason.
But, basically, the cap is £26,000, which is
the average take-home income.
And you have to be earning £35,000 a year to have that £500
in your pocket.
And all I would say is, there had to be a huge change and these
are huge changes,
but underneath it all is a moral argument that anyone who goes out
to work should not be worse off than someone who stays at home.
And there are two simple points to make here.
The benefit system is there for, has always been there for, people who
cannot look after themselves, and people who fall on hard times.
It is not a lifestyle choice.
And too often in this country that's what it's become,
and that's why it is so unfair to people like you.
Sarah Teather, you were part of this coalition government
until a bit ago, you're still there presumably supporting.
What do you think?
I think the problem with a lot of the debate around this is that it
misses the human cost involved.
And I know that it sounds like a large amount of money,
but if you're one of my constituents living in a very...
an area with very high housing cost,
you're going to face a really invidious choice when this
benefit cap comes in. You will lose perhaps many hundreds of pounds.
And the choice then for you is, do you move a long way away,
do you move a long way out of London, away from your support network,
away from where you're going to have any chance of getting work,
where your children are in school?
Or do you go into a much smaller property and become very overcrowded?
Or do you split up your family?
So we have to remember what the real cost of this type of policy is,
and I don't think it's going to save any money.
All of the evidence suggests that it is going to save very little money.
It doesn't seem to be getting people back into work. In fact,
it's likely to be counter-productive as people get moved a long way away
from where they live and where they've previously been in work.
And the danger is just that it's a political device.
For me, this is about demonstrating whose side you're on
and I don't like that type of politics.
Let me go back to Hector.
If, if...the landlords know that they get this rent
from the government, so they keep the rents high.
If they know their rents are going to be lower,
-they'll have to lower their rents. But they charge.
Well, the question is right.
Of course, Sarah's right too, there is a human cost involved.
And all change of this kind will lead to some hard cases.
And that is very, very regrettable.
But the truth is that,
quite apart from the moral argument which Amanda put forward, which
I agree with, we have to understand
that, as a country, we are in hock.
And we just can't afford to carry on as we have been carrying on.
But there's no evidence this will save any money.
It will save money, it's bound to save money.
-Why is it bound to save money?
-Because people will be getting less.
Let me finish.
People will be getting less than they otherwise would have got.
We are in the situation where we are borrowing money,
believe it or not, from countries which have a far lower standard
of living than we have, which don't have any welfare at all.
And it is completely unsustainable,
so we've got to start living within our means and this is
one of the steps which is necessary in order to achieve that.
-I need to...
-No, hold on a second, I'll come to you in a moment.
The figure offered is 110 million-a-year savings.
Do you accept that figure?
I don't know whether that's absolutely right.
But these figures add up.
This is not the only step which the Government's taking in order
to reduce the welfare bill. And you have to add them all together
and we have to save money in order to start living within our means.
I'll come back to you, Sarah. Let Caroline Flint come in.
The Government is borrowing 245 billion more pounds
than they were planning to,
because their economic policies are failing
and they haven't got the jobs and growth....
..to get this country back on its feet.
And, in answer to Hector's question,
I fundamentally believe that actually people should be better off in work
than on benefits. I also believe in a benefit cap, but one that can work.
And the problem is, is that because there are different housing costs
around the country, the Government have introduced
this sort of standardised benefit cap that will cause problems.
We argued that we should have localised benefit caps that
did reflect some of the housing costs,
and the truth is, particularly in London, and you make
a very valid point about whether this will bring the rents down.
On the front page of the Evening Standard tonight it says that
rents have gone up by eight times in London, and the truth is, because
there are so many people looking for private rented accommodation, and
because we haven't got enough social homes, council homes to put these
people into, we've got a problem that will emerge because of this.
And the Government say they want to tackle idleness.
Well, why are they making changes that are going to take money away
from people who are actually in work and supporting them in work?
It doesn't add up.
They are putting through incompetent policies that actually aren't
going to achieve what you want.
Are you saying the principle is right but the execution is wrong?
I think the principle is right, I think the execution is wrong, I don't
think it takes account of different housing costs around the country.
And it doesn't solve the problem.
We need to build more social homes for people, that is vital.
We certainly do.
The number of social housing units fell dramatically under the last
Labour government. But I'd like to ask Caroline this question.
If you support regional caps on benefits,
do you support regional benefit levels to start with?
Because you can't have one without the other.
No, I think there is a different issue when it comes to housing.
If you look around the country, Michael, you can see that there are
disparities in terms of housing costs.
The ability in my constituency, in Doncaster,
for people on relatively low medium incomes to buy a house is far
greater opportunity than people on low middle incomes in, say, London.
So I think it needs to reflect that. And the truth is, the truth is,
people in work are having tax credits taken away from them,
so the Government can't argue that they're supporting people in work
because two-thirds of the people affected by some of those changes
are working families who are trying to make ends meet and make work pay.
The problem with this one overall cap is, what it does is
disentangle the link that we have at the moment that recognises
that housing costs different amounts in different areas.
That's the reason why housing benefit rates are different
in different areas. So, it doesn't make any sense.
What really confuses me about this argument is...
I've lived in Britain for a long time now, more than 25 years.
I've known loads of people who, through their circumstances
when their families grew or they lost their job or
they got another job, they moved. They took their kids out of schools.
They accepted that you don't have a God-given right to stay
in the same house.
And I think that your protestations
and Caroline's seem to say that it's a different set of rules.
This goes back to the moral argument.
-Why should there be a different set of rules for people...
-Where are these people going to go?
There isn't social housing for them to go into
beyond the inner city of London.
-I think it's been very courageous of the Government to do it.
Lots of people want to speak but, Griff, your turn.
Well, I'm sitting on the edge here.
And I basically agree with everybody and disagree with them all
at the same time.
The problem that comes here is that we have a welfare system that
has not really been sorted for quite a long time.
It's been fiddled with.
And we live in an unsustainable... equation.
The equation goes like this.
We are... our welfare is billowing and it was predicted,
at the time of the Lisbon Accord by economists who came together
and said, "Look, Western Europe is not basically going to be able
"to afford what it wants to do in the way of welfare.
"And it will have to take some pain along the way."
But what I also recognise, and what is very, very true,
is that because we have left it so late, because we're now
engaged in a form of tinkering, we're going to cause some real,
genuine pain to people
who have become reliant on a system which is so complicated that,
as we sit to discuss it here,
we can't even find a sort of conclusion about what we are
talking about, and this is the first of 20, at least 20 measures
which are going to play with a really complicated welfare system.
We have a situation in this country where we have encouraged people,
to stay in higher education till the age of 21 or later,
and then we retire at a relatively early age, I mean, and then
we try to live, thanks to the National Health Service,
till beyond 100.
And under those circumstances, the actual time we spend
as productive people putting money into the pot is not quite working.
It's not adding up.
The woman there in the striped...
Striped thing, yes.
I would quite like to agree with Amanda.
I don't understand why there seems to be two different rules,
one if you're on benefits and one if you're working.
I work. I can't afford to live in London - so guess what? I don't.
Yes? Woman up there in white.
There's only a certain number of people in the country that
the money is taken from their taxes to pay the benefits.
And we can't already sort out the benefits that people are getting,
so why is it that when people from abroad come into our country, they
are not here for very long before they also are receiving benefits?
We can't make what we've got go round with the people that we've got
here already without this additional number of people
-coming in from outside.
We'll take the woman there and then I'll come to you, Sarah.
The point that everyone seems to have overlooked is that the vast
majority of benefits recipients in this country are working people.
What the benefit system is actually doing is subsidising big companies
to pay starvation wages,
and the solution would be to raise the minimum wage....
If the minimum wage were raised to a living standard,
then not only would fewer people claim benefits,
but there would be greater tax revenue as well.
And are you in favour of, in that context,
-of a cap on welfare payments?
-No, I don't think it's the answer.
what do you say to the idea of raising the minimum wage?
Well, it sounds very attractive in principle.
But there would be many companies that simply couldn't afford
to pay a higher minimum wage,
and they would then start laying people off.
They might even go out of business.
And the result might be that you would actually have fewer people
in work than you started off with.
That would not be what you want, and certainly not what I want.
Isn't that the same argument the Tories used
-when it was first introduced?
-And it all depends on the level
at which you put the minimum wage.
-£50 an hour might be tricky.
And if you increase it, you may well get the kind of...
This is the argument you used when the minimum wage first came in.
You said all hell will be let loose, jobs will disappear. Did they?
Depending on the level at which it was fixed.
The level it was fixed, did they disappear? No.
Because it was fixed at a low level.
The answer to this is also about access to jobs.
There's something like 1.5 million people working part-time
who are desperate to work full-time,
and they really do want to do that but the jobs are not there.
And the truth is,
unemployment has gone up again in the figures this week.
Unemployment is higher today than it was in 2010, and Osborne and Cameron
have to listen to organisations like the IMF and others who say...
-Let's not talk about the IMF!
-No, I'm sorry.
..who say you have to do something to tackle growth,
cos the way out of this is through jobs and growth
and giving people the chance to earn more.
Let's just come back, come back to the question Hector asked
originally. The man there in the very back row, you, sir.
The majority of welfare goes on pensions, not on benefits.
Shouldn't we be focusing on pensions instead?
And to the lady talking about immigrants claiming benefits,
the majority of immigrants, the claim rate amongst immigrants
is much lower, of benefits, than it is amongst the general population.
So are you saying you'd favour a cut in state pensions,
as a way of reducing the welfare bill?
We're focusing on the wrong thing by focusing on welfare
in a divisive campaign by the Conservatives,
when the whole point is that we should focus on pensions
but we won't because Cameron has made a promise about not
cutting pensions because that's where his voter base is.
You'd like to see pensions cut?
I think it has to be put on the table.
Pensions have to be put on the table instead of this divisive attack
on people on benefits.
The woman here in the third row.
Honestly, I think instead of cutting benefits
we should be not encouraging big developers to move into our areas.
I'm part of a campaign to save a company,
to stop it from being turned into a McDonald's drive-thru.
It does not offer a full-time liveable wage.
Instead of encouraging people to go to these companies,
why not encourage local businesses?
Why not encourage local communities to look after themselves
-to basically stop other people from going on benefits?
And the man up there on the far left. You, sir.
I just want to ask Michael Howard.
Tesco spent 1.2 billion in costs of winding up their US arm this week.
Couldn't that have been spent on giving their workers a better wage?
Well, Tesco will make their own decisions.
They're an independent, private company and they will
make their own decisions as to how that money can best be used.
And the more successful Tesco are, the more shops they open,
then the more people they employ and the better off everyone is.
They're the best people to decide how to spend that money.
What you're saying is that they actually can't afford it.
Clearly they can because, like I said, they spent 1.2 billion.
I'm not saying they can't afford it.
They're the best people to decide how to use their resources.
And they're using it in a way which makes them more prosperous,
which creates more jobs and which is for the benefit of the country.
One more point from over there and then, Sarah, one point from you.
Just going back to the point about a living wage,
you say that companies may not be happy to pay it, but yet again
this week we found out another company paid no tax to this country.
And it seems that your government are more concerned with keeping
your friends in business happy
than keeping the welfare and the happiness of your population
in general, because you'd rather not upset the businesses
and upset people who are trying to make their way in life.
I just want to come back on some of the points being raised.
Just one point. We can't go on for much longer on this.
Consistently people are saying it's going to save a lot of money.
I think we have to put it in perspective.
Many people in my constituency who are going to be affected by this
have been housed by the council.
That means the council's going to have to move them.
There will be costs,
so even if it looks like there are some savings in welfare, there are
going to be massive costs to councils in order to deal with this.
There won't be any savings, and Eric Pickles knows this
because we know that he was writing letters around Government
that ended up in the Observer about 18 months ago,
so we know full well that there really aren't going to be...
Your Liberal colleagues have voted with this in Government.
-You may not have, but the rest did.
-I didn't vote with it.
You seem to differ from the Government on quite a lot of things.
Not on quite a lot of things, no.
You do still approve of the coalition?
-I do approve of the coalition.
-But on this...
I don't like this type of politics.
The setting up of dividing lines just to prove which side you're on.
It's not good for the country.
I just wanted to say that the examples of bad practice,
whether it's people exploiting the system, the welfare system,
or people being hurt, individuals being hurt
by the welfare system, or, indeed, businesses,
individual businesses that don't pay any tax
and become a sort of exemplar of bad behaviour,
don't actually help us with trying to deal with the major problem.
-The major problem is still...
-They're exceptional cases.
Exceptional cases which tend to become part of the political
language don't really help us in this problem.
We will go on to another question, thanks.
It's a good debate.
You can join in on text or Twitter, as you know.
And you can text us.
The red button, if you push it, will tell you what others are...
texting. A question now from Alison Fox, please. Alison Fox.
Are we all Thatcherites now?
Are we Thatcherites now?
This is in the light of what the
Prime Minister said yesterday,
before Lady Thatcher's funeral,
-on the radio, apparently.
He said, "In a sense, we are all Thatcherites now."
So we just want to tease this out a bit with Michael Howard, perhaps.
-Well, in a sense we are.
-No surprise that I agree with the Prime Minister.
-What does it mean?
Well, I think it means this.
Let me suggest a test, which you can apply to this argument.
We've had 13 years of Labour government
between Margaret Thatcher's leaving office and today.
If you look back on the major reforms which she put in place,
reform of the trade unions, privatisation...
..13 years of Labour government didn't reverse any of them.
Look at the tax rate.
Not long before she became Prime Minister, income tax was at 98%.
It was reduced gradually under her office to 40 pence in the pound.
And it stayed the maximum rate of income taxed at 40p in the pound
until just a few days before the 2010 election.
So if you look back at the major reforms which she put in place,
very controversial at the time, they've largely been accepted.
The gap between the major parties now
is much smaller than it was when I entered Parliament in 1983.
Michael Foot was leading the Labour Party, they were committed to more
public ownership, higher taxation, unilateral nuclear disarmament.
The gap has closed, largely because
the Labour Party has moved towards us, and not vice versa.
And in that sense, we are all Thatcherites now.
So you mean we're all Conservatives now?
I think Margaret Thatcher won the major arguments
and that's responsible for a new -
divisive figure though she was in her time - a new consensus.
Of course we don't agree on everything,
but on the major issues, yes, we're all Thatcherites now.
Um, I am certainly not a Thatcherite.
I profoundly disagree with many policies that Margaret Thatcher
led on in government.
I think she oversaw mass unemployment in our country, I think
even though clearly, in terms of parts of our industry
during that time, it had to change, I think
she devastated communities by treating hard-working people
in our industrial heartlands as the enemy within.
And I think some of the legacy of Margaret Thatcher...
It was specifically the miners, wasn't it?
That wasn't a general attack on people in industry.
-Well, if you look at...
-It was about the miners' strike.
And what she did, though, David, was rather,
in terms of her head-to-head with people like Arthur Scargill,
she broadened that out to devastate mining communities
and steel communities, and the legacy of that is there today.
Many people, many men...
We were just talking about welfare.
Many men were put on incapacity benefit as a way to hide
the unemployment figures. It was unacceptable.
It was unacceptable to me that she didn't support economic sanctions
against South Africa. It was unacceptable that she
supported the poll tax. It was unacceptable to me that she
stigmatised gay and lesbian people through section 28.
So I am not a Thatcherite.
But all parties have to adapt to change.
The Labour government introduced a national minimum wage.
The Tories and the Liberal Democrats voted against it.
They wouldn't change it now, so are they all Blairites?
Why did your two Labour Prime Ministers make a point of inviting
Lady Thatcher to Number 10, hosting her, shaking hands on the steps?
-Were you in favour of that?
-I think... Well, I think...
-Michael Howard is right?
-I don't think that means that they agree
with all the policies that she led on in government for one minute.
You wouldn't have invited her if you'd been Prime Minister?
I think there's lots of things that happen in politics and,
rather like the funeral this week, which was agreed to,
I understand, I don't know the details of it, by Gordon Brown
and Tony Blair, some of the arrangements were agreed to before.
Some of it is about what you do in politics.
We do not spend our time in the House of Commons attacking each other
in the corridors.
I think there'd be people having strokes and heart attacks
if they spent their time so hyped up on that,
but you can be polite, you can respect people
and I have said she deserves credit for the fact that she overcame
opposition in her party to become the first woman leader.
She did win three general elections, but I do not believe that
overall what she did for our country was good.
And the legacy of that in communities is still being felt today.
Caroline, you mentioned Mrs Thatcher's policies in South Africa.
Two or three weeks ago there was a wonderful article
in The Times by one of her ambassadorial staff that said
she was for inclusion because she didn't feel that economic sanctions
would be productive and you'd only further isolate South Africa.
But yet in your final sentence you said you had to be polite
and respectful, and that's exactly what she was trying to achieve,
so whilst there was an outside view that she was being confrontational
and gladiatorial with South Africa,
that was the furthest thing she wanted to do.
She wanted to take an inclusive route.
The problem was, both anti-apartheid...
I'm sorry, but at the time, and I was
involved in campaigning against apartheid in South Africa, but
at the time anti-apartheid and the ANC said, we need economic sanctions.
That is what they were asking for.
People in South Africa, black people, were being treated appallingly.
Their economic circumstances were bad anyway.
And that is one thing she refused to do.
Let's not go down this road.
What the Prime Minister said was that,
"We are all, in a sense, Thatcherites now."
Griff Rhys Jones, do you think we're all Thatcherites now?
Well, we have funerals to reach a state of closure, don't we?
And I really think it's time we all moved on.
When I was a boy,
we were slightly brought up with an obsession with the Second World War.
Everything was related to the war
and we couldn't watch a TV programme without it
being about the war, and now the only historical thing that
seems to have happened to Britain since then is Thatcher.
I feel that we are, in a way, Thatcher's children, but one
of the things that's very important to me is that we're being accused
now - we're digging up apartheid again, digging up all sorts of....
Either Thatcher was a marvellous thing,
but also a sort of rather strange idea that we, as a nation,
have become people who are extremely greedy as a result of Mrs Thatcher.
A sort of nonsense notion, we are
still human beings with our own decisions to make
and we should stick by those and believe in ourselves
and start looking to the future instead of referring
all the time to what Mrs Thatcher did and what she achieved.
You could say there's an Attlee generation as well
as a Thatcher generation.
Well, we don't hear so much from them, do we, these days?
-I don't know. Sarah Teather.
-I think we are Thatcher's children.
Certainly, if I think back,
I can't remember anything before she came to power.
-She asked, were we Thatcherites.
I was about to say, we're Thatcher's children
but I don't think we're all Thatcherites.
I'm certainly not a Thatcherite.
In terms of my politics,
it was formed out of opposing Margaret Thatcher.
I can't remember anything before she came to power,
and all of my political growing up was formed by disagreeing
with almost everything that she did.
And I've continued to disagree with an awful lot of what she did.
Why weren't those things undone then?
The key things - trade union reform, for instance, wasn't changed,
privatisation - nobody is suggesting re-nationalising everything.
You can disagree with an awful lot of...
But these are the main planks Michael is putting forward.
It doesn't mean that it's right to undo everything
and, on some things, we're not going to go back to suddenly
nationalising all of the industries again.
But there are lots of things on which I profoundly disagreed
and which were reversed and which we wouldn't want to do again.
I profoundly disagree with her attitudes towards Europe,
for example, her attitude towards the poorest, her attitude
around unemployment, thinking it was OK to let unemployment rise,
rather than actually seeing that it was really important
to focus on getting people into work.
Will you ever credit her with the fact that, when she came to power,
she inherited rising unemployment and she brought it down?
It just seems like there are endless lies, like about South Africa,
about the notion of society, about unemployment.
She brought unemployment down.
There were more people working when she left power.
This country was a cot case when she took over and even Russia
wouldn't buy goods from us because they were badly made,
they couldn't deliver them on time and we couldn't keep to any agenda
because of the unions. She changed that.
Harold Wilson closed more mines than Margaret Thatcher.
It was the Tories who got rid of her!
Tony Blair oversaw more of the closure of manufacturing
in this country than Margaret Thatcher did.
Can we just get a bit of perspective? Without her,
this country would be, you know, the cot case of Europe, and it ended up
the third or fourth richest economy in the world when she left.
That creates jobs and that created a future for people in this
country, people like me. And I would say, with her example
as first woman Prime Minister, people like both of you here too.
The woman on the gangway. Yes.
I don't actually like being categorised as one thing or another.
I'm actually my own person
and I'm not a Thatcherite, I'm a nothingite!
You know, it's like, I have my own beliefs, I don't live in the past.
I'm looking towards the future.
And I don't think there's anything to be gained by keep
going over and over, and over things that have already been debated for
the last 20-odd years, and why don't we move on, and look to the future?
We don't have to change everything, like the recent coalition has done,
as soon as you get into power you've got to undo everything and then
you make a real mess of everything, and it costs more, and more money.
OK. And you, sir, in the middle. Third row from the back, there.
Today it was announced in Liverpool that Anne Williams
died of her illness, her son died, Kevin, died in Hillsborough
and he never saw justice because of Margaret Thatcher,
and is Cameron really suggesting that the people of Liverpool,
Yorkshire, the miners, are Thatcherites
because he's seriously, seriously deluded.
All right, I think we might...
Don't you think, though, in a funny way, they are
because they seem to be unable to forget Mrs Thatcher,
just as Michael doesn't seem to be able to forget her either.
I just think, to a certain extent, we do have to try
and bury the past, move on and accept that what we've done is move...
One thing that is good that has happened, in a strange way,
is we have moved more slightly more to the middle
and it will be a pity if the current economic crisis drives us,
as a nation, into a...a right and left position again.
I think we are debating what works instead of where we stand
in the political spectrum.
We're halfway through, Michael, just a brief comment.
I just want to say a word about Hillsborough
because I care deeply about the,
about the 96 who lost their lives at Hillsborough
and, indeed, I started an investigation internally
when I was Home Secretary,
which ultimately led to the further investigations.
I can tell you this,
that if Margaret Thatcher had known that the police
had behaved as we now know they behaved at Hillsborough,
she would have been at least as deeply shocked
as you, sir, and as I.
OK. Do you want to have a say? Go on then.
I was just going to say, do you not think that,
regardless of, sort of, separate beliefs and everything,
do you not think that still, like, for our, sort of, figurehead,
our country's image, do you not think that
that was a ridiculously, kind of, inflammatory thing to say
at a time when the country is so divided?
-What, for David Cameron to say?
It was, I actually haven't had the chance to answer this question
so, very quickly, I think it was, I agree with you, I think
it was a little bit silly.
He should not have gone on your show and given an interview
which looked as though he was trying to capitalise
upon Lady Thatcher's death...
It wasn't to me, it was on the radio.
Oh, I apologise, I thought everything great appeared on your show!
It does but he said other things...
But he said that we were all Thatcherites now, we're not.
I think Andrew Marr got it right with the History Of The World show
when he said we're Thatcher's children cos we are products of it
but not all children like their mothers.
-Right. Let's go on.
Lucy Ivey, a question from you, please.
Should vaccinations for children be compulsory?
Should vaccinations for children be compulsory?
This, of course, in the light of what's going on in Wales
with a number of people who have not been vaccinated
and are getting measles, and it is compulsory in some countries -
in the United States, in particular.
Should it be compulsory here? Griff Rhys Jones?
No, I don't think it should be compulsory
but I think we are facing a difficult thing with self-diagnosis.
It's complicated for me.
My father was a doctor and he hated watching Dr Kildare.
He wouldn't allow us to watch it because the following day,
you're all, many of you, too young even to remember Dr Kildare,
but the following, it's probably the same with Casualty,
the following day his patients would arrive exhibiting exactly
the same symptoms as they had seen in the programme.
And I think what happened here was tragic and bad,
and that is that a media debate started on the basis of some
rather dodgy evidence which would have been better discussed
by clinicians in the safety of their own hospital.
And we've had another scare with, with the heart centre in Leeds,
which was similarly discussed in the papers.
The evidence, which should have been left to doctors to discuss privately,
became a public issue.
When these things happen people naturally become scared
and I think that's a pity.
I was brought up to trust doctors and, to a certain extent, we should.
Very difficult sometimes because it's also true to say that there have
been some terrible public health scares and, particularly,
in the 19th century where it was newspapers that led the way.
But the idea behind this is that in the United States
it's seen as a social duty to be vaccinated against measles
because if you're not your child is going to give it to another child,
or to another child
-and therefore you actually have a social obligation.
it's complicated because there is an element of personal freedom here
but we also know that the use of antibiotics
is now becoming a really dreadful problem, future problem,
for the world and the idea of not, not using the law to control
the use of medicines is, obviously, becoming very, very complicated.
You, sir, over there.
Like Griff's father, I am also a doctor and I sympathise,
I empathise with his sentiments regarding TV programmes
concerning medicine in hospitals but I would say that
there is no ethical problem with compulsory vaccination.
We already have laws in progress that allow
the detention of people with communicable diseases
who refuse treatment, such as tuberculosis, in hospitals.
Counterbalanced with the severity of diseases like measles,
measles is a killer,
there is absolutely no doubt about that, it kills young children.
For me, there is no ethical problem that would, you know,
prevent me from administering compulsory vaccinations,
when one looks at the severity of the diseases involved.
The reason why we're talking about this
is around, what, ten years ago, a guy called Andrew...
-Wakefield, was it Wakefield?
He decided, based on what was some dodgy research,
that there was a link between the MMR vaccination...
We know about that cos Griff was talking about that.
Yeah, but just, you know,
the guy has been found to be completely wrong,
he was struck off by the GMC
and he's somewhere in America now doing something else
but the truth, the result of this, is a combination of what he's said,
I'm afraid a combination of the influence of sections of the press,
I'm afraid, including the Daily Mail, and some politicians as well.
We had around 70 cases, I think, ten years ago, of measles, a year,
it is now up at around 2,000
and what we are seeing is the consequences
of people not getting their children vaccinated,
who were scared into doing it, and, therefore, a number of children
in Wales and elsewhere now are suffering....
But that is the background, what about the question,
which was, should they be made to be vaccinated compulsorily?
Well, the point about the question is this is that in America
people aren't forced to vaccinate
because there's a difference between saying you have to vaccinate
and saying if your child isn't vaccinated
you can't come into a public school. There is a difference in that.
-Is there a real difference?
-I think there is...
Not for most people, surely, because you can't educate your children.
You are giving a choice to someone not to vaccinate
but there are consequences with that.
But we used to have very high rates of vaccination
and the reason why they've dipped
is because of the scare stories that were put around about MMR.
Even people, for example,
who suggested that we should have single jabs.
There was an inference in that
that there was something wrong with the vaccination...
But I'm interested in your view about the ethics
of saying to people.
You say in the States you're only banned from public education.
-So, you can go around the streets and still...
-Yes, that's right.
-So, it seems a rather weird thing to do
because you're not protected by going to a public school.
What I'm trying to clarify here, David, it is not compulsory
but you're not allowed admission to areas where it could put
children most at risk. And that's the public school system.
What I'm saying is, is that it is fair to have a debate about that.
I'm not sure if that is the answer.
I think the answer is to get back to where we were,
which was high rates of take-up in every community in our country
that brought measles down to 70 a year
and was going down even further but as a result of the scaremongering,
as a result of newspapers being irresponsible,
and other individuals,
a whole generation of kids did not get vaccinated,
and it put a whole number of other people at risk.
Can I just say, this absolutely infuriates me.
This is the reason it is up to, it is a newspaper's responsibility,
and I'm proud that the Daily Mail takes this very seriously,
to report the facts.
You know, there was a man who claimed...
-He was struck off!
He was struck off by the GMC!
We hear at the time that he made these claims
-they were taken as credible...
-By the Daily Mail.
That is ridiculous, they were taken by everyone, Caroline,
don't be silly, darling. It makes you just sounds silly to say that.
It was run by every single...
can you just let me finish for a second
because you've been quite having a good time today.
And who was, there was one person who could have stood up,
and we asked again and again,
"Could you please just say that you are sure that this jab is safe
"and that you will give it to your son," and that man was Tony Blair.
-You misunderstand science.
-Excuse me, let me just finished.
He refused to say whether or not he would give his own son the jab...
That was an immoral question to ask him.
..that could have doused the whole argument.
I'm sorry, but to suggest that people, public figures,
should have to talk about what they give their children
-No, no, you, your newspaper.
Your newspaper helped to create the crisis
and you can't walk away from that.
Darlings, have we learned our lesson? That's what I want to know.
Now we've had the argument, have we learnt the lesson?
It's newspapers' jobs to report...
One at a time, please. I'm going back to the doctor, yes?
It's just regrettable that Amanda Platell's paper,
their version of the facts there is very little evidence of very little,
kind of, agreement with the actual science behind the vaccinations.
And is the Daily Mail the only newspaper you read, sir?
It was covered by all newspapers and, in fact,
the biggest one that's been laid to blame is one of the local newspapers,
which I think is completely unfair.
With hindsight, do you regret the scale of coverage
that the Mail gave it and, it has to be said,
it has to be said, some parts of the BBC covered this too.
Look, nobody knew whether or not this was dangerous, nobody knew
and if ever there's a health issue,
you know, people dying on the Liverpool Pathway,
the elderly not being treated in hospitals,
we see it as our duty to report that.
OK, hold on, you, sir, and then I'll come. All right. Yes?
You said it was the newspaper's job to report the facts.
The newspaper's job, at the end of the day, is to sell papers.
So, what you're doing isn't necessarily going to be fact.
You're going to twist it to what ever way
-is going to make you sell the most copies.
-I think the Daily Mail has, kind of, perfected that.
Let's go away from the Daily Mail, for the moment,
and come to the issue, Sarah Teather,
should vaccinations for children be compulsory
-and forget the history, for a moment.
I mean, I'm not in favour of compulsory medication.
I think if you start down that road I, you know,
goodness knows where an earth it will end.
If you're going to deal with this we need to actually understand science
and a lot of the problem with this debate, I'm afraid, Amanda,
you're falling back into the same trap.
I mean, to ask Tony Blair
to say categorically whether something is safe.
Apart from the fact that you're putting a man and his child
into the public, which is just completely unacceptable,
whichever party you're in,
you have to think that that is completely unacceptable
but, also, science doesn't proceed like that.
Science proceeds on the basis of risk and the problem with newspapers
is that they report things as polarities.
It's either completely safe or completely dangerous and that...
That is so not true, Sarah, I'm sorry, it shows, darling,
it shows, actually, that you're not a regular reader of the Daily Mail
during that period.
LAUGHTER That's possibly true but I am also a scientist
and I did work for an organisation
that, for quite a long time, tried to make sure,
I worked for the Royal Society a long time before I was elected,
and one of the big things we were involved in
was talking about science advice,
and the problem is people don't understand
the scientific information they have, they don't know how to interpret it.
So, this type of thing happens over and over, and over again.
So, to answer Griff's problem,
we haven't learned our lessons, I don't think.
We see scares all the time on the front page of newspapers
with one report with half a dozen people treated as if this is true
when, in fact, scientific information just doesn't proceed like that.
That this man a charlatan, wasn't he?
They decided, in the end, that he had behaved dishonestly
-So, how could the Daily Mail know that?
How could anybody know that
until the thing had spent two or three years...
It was a tiny study that was published in the Lancet
-but, of course...
-The Lancet, the goodness sake!
Let me finish, David, let me finish, let me finish.
But the claims he made were not made in the Lancet
they were made at a press conference later.
You know, you can't just, I think we need to have,
what would be really helpful is if something like this,
if everybody reflected on what's happened.
We have 800 cases, we're lucky, at the moment, nobody has died.
If people reflected on,
and scientists and newspaper journalists came together,
and had a proper sensible discussion
about how we report scientific facts...
But there isn't an issue now about MMR, the question, now,
-and you're against compulsory vaccination.
-I am against.
I want to go to the woman up there
and then I will come to you, Michael Howard. Yes?
I did a little bit of research around the MMR when my daughter
had to have it and I did decide to give it to her
but I did also come across some information
about the possibility of changing the ages at which the children
receive their jabs so that it didn't coincide with the age that
autism also began to appear in young children,
so that we could, you know, effectively see and, you know,
put up some research for parents saying, "Look, we've changed
"the ages where be given the MMR to children and there is, you know,
-"we can categorically prove..."
-There is just no link with autism.
No, that's not the point she's making, the point is there was,
there was an apparent coincidence of autism and MMR.
That's what lots of people said and if we, somehow, give them...
Separate, we could then see...
Yeah, separate them and give people, sort of, unequivocal proof
that these two events happened separately,
I think a lot more parents might be happy.
And are you in favour of compulsory vaccination?
-I mean, you say you've vaccinated your children.
-I don't know,
I, sort of, in a protective nature towards my own daughter,
I'd, sort of, say, yes,
I'd want as many children to be protected as possible
but then I also have a slight moral issue with compelling people
-to vaccinate their children against their will.
It is absurd, in this context, to demonise the Daily Mail.
This controversy was covered by almost every newspaper,
it was covered extensively on the BBC
and it continued to rage for quite a long time,
despite the fact that Yvette Cooper, to her credit,
who I think was Health Minister at the time, said that she had
arranged for her children to be vaccinated.
So, it was a controversy and, in an ideal world, Sarah,
things would happen as you've described
but they're never going to happen like that
-because when controversies...
-We could improve things a bit...
..when controversies arise you must expect the media to cover them.
That was in the past.
I agree with those who have said
that it would be wrong to make it compulsory, I agree with Caroline,
what you've got to try and do is get back to a situation
where, on an entirely voluntary basis,
the overwhelming majority of parents arranged for their children
to have the vaccine and I hope we can get back to that,
the sooner the better.
I never thought I'd find myself agreeing with a Liberal Democrat
but, at the end of the day, surely, the natural conclusion for things
that are this important, that are best understood by scientists,
is that scientists and doctors should make the decision
and, as a result of that, don't you agree that the natural conclusion
is that compulsory vaccination is the way forward,
and if we had compulsory vaccination
measles would be something we were discussing in the history.
I don't think you can abdicate
all of the role of a politician to a scientist,
that's not what I was, actually, arguing,
-politicians still need to make decisions.
-The woman at the back.
But we need to understand the advice.
I don't think politicians always understand advice from scientists.
The woman at the back, then you, sir, then we'll go on.
I'm a new parent so I've just been through this process myself,
and I can say you're given a lot of information about the vaccinations.
You know, so you know what you're doing
and I personally believe that getting your child vaccinated
is the responsible thing to do and I want to make sure there's,
any risks I can get rid of for my child I can.
So, if the parents of other children, your neighbours,
weren't vaccinating their children
would you think they should be compelled to?
No, I think you should want to do what is best for your child.
I know that's an ideal world and I think getting your child vaccinated
is the best thing to do for your child
but I'm uncomfortable with the idea of the state forcing parents
into a decision if they have a moral objection.
I can't imagine what it would be like to have your child taken away
and vaccinated against your will, I think that would be wrong.
Your child, once vaccinated, is protected anyway
so the issue barely arises. Over there, yes.
I agree with the gentleman earlier on. He said that we have
lots of different rules that are for the good of the community,
-you know, rules of the road, national curriculum...
Seat belts. I see this as no different,
for the good of the community,
-vaccinations like this should be compulsory.
You were going to pick me up on one point
I said that if her child is vaccinated it's safe.
If there are a large numbers of people who aren't vaccinated
that can still have an impact, in terms of these diseases,
on those who are and there are some people -
and I was talking to someone today who knows someone who's got
a small child who's got leukaemia,
they can't, because of their leukaemia, get vaccinated
so they are not protected.
The herd immunity protects those people as well
and this is why these things are so important.
It actually brings it together, collectively,
in collective responsibility together
and we need to make sure that, actually, you know,
last time round there were many, many, many more doctors
and scientists saying, "It's safe, stick with the MMR,"
and we allowed an individual and a couple of others
-to take us off course.
-OK, thank you.
Hannah Martin, please.
Does the threat from North Korea justify Trident?
Does the threat from North Korea
justify keeping the Trident missile system?
Who'd like to start on this?
Griff Rhys Jones.
Erm...we are, in a funny way,
seeing the downside of the nuclear deterrent here
because it's complicated, in as much as we live in a world
which has been protected by these fearful weapons.
But if we look back to the end of the Second World War, historically...
..had Adolf Hitler had nuclear weapons
he would have used them indiscriminately
because he was madman, and, to a certain extent,
he believed at the end of the war that the German people had failed
and he wanted to take them,
and the rest of the world, down with him if he could.
And one of the problems about such dangerous weaponry
is that in the hands of people who are failing to rule their country,
and they are a failing regime, in North Korea,
they become increasingly dangerous.
Whether Trident will stop them ultimately taking some ghastly
and terrible action is not necessarily any more true.
I mean, in a way, it's a weapon which we know we SHOULD believe in
to protect us from a sort of sense of mutual destruction,
and to say that it hasn't is to misunderstand the post-war world
because, in a funny way, we have avoided really,
we've had a lot of war but we've avoided really major,
major wars, like the Second World War,
in which 68 million people, it's now estimated, died...
..and, under those circumstances, it's an important thing.
For us to have as well as the United States to have?
Yes, yes, I believe so.
Michael Howard, because Michael Portillo,
the former Defence Secretary of the Conservative government,
said, "It's absurd to believe the United Kingdom
"would use nuclear weapons against North Korea.
"If anyone's going to do it and provide a deterrent
"it's the United States." Do you agree with that?
I don't think that's quite the point.
The point is that we live in an extraordinarily uncertain world
in which you cannot predict every eventuality that might occur.
But let me, let me give you a hypothetical example.
..take it upon ourselves...
..normally together with other countries,
to be preferred to intervene in certain circumstances
for what you regard as humanitarian reasons.
We did it most recently, together with the French, in Libya.
Now, if Libya had still had nuclear weapons...
..then some people might have thought
that Colonel Gaddafi might been prepared to use them,
in those circumstances.
I don't think he would have been prepared to use them, why?
Because he knew that we and the French had them.
And you cannot discount the possibility that we might,
for the very best of reasons, for humanitarian reasons,
want to intervene in a part of the world which was within
reach of North Korea's nuclear arsenal...
..and we might be deterred from intervening.
And achieving those humanitarian objectives,
if they had those nuclear weapons, and we didn't.
And so you've got to take into account the enormous uncertainty
of the world in which we live,
the fact that we can't predict
all the likely situations that might arise
and that's why I believe we do need to keep our nuclear deterrent.
Yes, to you.
I see the problem at the moment,
with maintaining independent deterrents,
is that, well, the problem is cost, mainly
because it's highly expensive to develop, say, the submarines
which we do, there are other ways you could do it, but at high cost...
I do agree with Michael on this point
that you can't predict the world.
We've seen this with the Arab Spring,
lots of countries changing into ways
which we probably wouldn't like them to,
such as we've seen in Egypt, lots of problems rising up there.
We've seen, mainly in North Africa and so on.
It's important to maintain it but another point on North Korea,
North Korea is, will probably never use it.
They are just trying to join this club of nuclear nations
where they can try and be respected
but when their friends down south are more economic prospects.
I think it was quoted,
it was something the Prime Minister said, that it was an example,
a good example of why you might need a nuclear deterrent.
I mean, I'm not convinced that North Korea is the main threat
to our security.
I think the main threat to our security is, is terrorism
and it's all sorts of random groups around the world and, for that,
Trident is very poorly equipped.
It is phenomenally expensive, as the gentleman here just said,
and, funnily enough, listening to what Michael was saying about,
about Libya, I, kind of, drew a different conclusion, actually.
I fear that we just end up in an arms race, really,
and that countries with rogue, you know,
rogue governments think that the best way to protect themselves
is to get nuclear weapons
and the argument which is going, kind of, round and round and round
and round, that if they have nuclear weapons we need more nuclear weapons.
And I wonder whether or not this is, actually,
a particularly sensible use of money at the time.
I mean, we've had a debate all evening, on and off,
it's been the undercurrent of what we've been talking about
has been about the financial difficulties we have in this country,
and with what money we have,
I wonder whether we might be better protecting ourselves in other ways
and thinking about how to protect ourselves,
particularly, against terrorism. APPLAUSE
You, sir, at the back, there. Yes?
Sarah, I agree with your point around terrorism
but Trident is just part of a whole defence solution
and, surely, it's better to have it and not need it
than need and not have it.
Caroline Flint, do you agree with him?
Yeah, I do agree with the last gentleman.
I mean, the world is very different, in many respects,
from the days of the Cold War where we pointed at them
and they pointed at us, and there seemed to be,
despite everything, certain rules of engagement.
And I think, I remember one senior person in the Army saying,
"Well, when it was the Cold War
"it was like conducting a symphony orchestra,
"since then and all the other things that have occurred,
"in terms of risk, it's more like jazz because you just don't know
"what's going to happen
"and you've got to be prepared for all eventualities."
I think what has happened,
since the end of the Cold War, is that we have seen a reduction,
I think, in the, sort of, stockpile of nuclear warheads
and I welcome that but the truth is I think it's not only
for our benefit but it's also the umbrella with other responsible
nuclear nations that we provide a defence for other countries as well.
And, so, therefore, I think it's just part of what we have to deal with
but you are absolutely right, and so is Sarah,
it isn't the only answer to deal with conflict,
and it certainly isn't the only answer at all
to deal with issues around terrorism that we face today,
and the many forms that that arrives in.
The woman, there, and then I'll come to you, Amanda,
and then I think we'll have to close. Yes, you.
I find there's a real, sort of, loss with what we teach our kids,
to turn the other cheek and to, if a bully hits you, don't hit them back,
and then we hold onto war weapons, and nuclear things,
so, if they do it we can do it.
And it's something that we demonise them for having nuclear weapons
but it's OK because we have it, because we trust ourselves,
and I don't understand this imbalance
-of we're allowed to have it but they're not.
I am, unsurprisingly, no nuclear expert
but I completely agree with this gentleman over here.
There's a club out there of countries, some of them reliable,
some of them completely fragile, and I would much rather
-be among the club of the, as you called it, "the nuclear nations."
I'll take one more point. Who hasn't spoken yet? You haven't, sir.
The lady at the end, there,
said she'd rather be in the club of the nuclear nations.
What, including the USA
who has destroyed cities with nuclear weapons?
What sort of club is that?
-Sorry you, what cities is...?
-In the Second World War?
Yes, in the Second World War.
Right, well, I think this is going to stop.
I know you're very keen to speak. All right. What?
On the last question, I'd like to ask Griff Rhys Jones...
you reckon that Hitler was mad, do you think the same of Harry Truman?
No, I think that what happened was that the use of nuclear weapons
was a restrained use of force at the end of the Second World War.
I think it was an appalling use of force but what that actually...
Both those explosions have effectively put an end
to the use of that weapon, and they have done.
Nobody has, effectively, used another nuclear weapon in anger since that
time and I think, in a way, we bought a level of peace as a result of it.
-And, although, that may,
that's a totally terrible thing for the world to have achieved
I think that if that happened as a result of those ghastly explosions.
You can't escape the attack.
You cannot escape the attack on innocent men,
women and children - civilians.
There was no need for it at all!
Time's up, I'm afraid. Thank you for the point.
Next week we're going to be in Worcester
and Nigel Farage is going to be on the panel and Robert Winston,
the scientist, and television presenter.
Everybody seems to be a television presenter these days!
-Anyway, the week after that we're going to be...
-It's a club!
It's a club. We're going to be in Dartford, in Kent.
Now, if you'd like to come to either programme,
that's Worcester and Dartford, then go to our website,
the best way of doing it or you can call us...
Let us know your details, we'll get in touch.
Thanks very much to our panel, here,
thank you, all, for coming here to Aldershot.
I know many of you don't live in Aldershot
and have come here especially for this programme.
I'm very grateful to you, we'll see you all again,
those watching at home, next Thursday, I hope.
-From all of this here, good night.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
David Dimbleby presents Question Time from Aldershot. On the panel are former Conservative Party leader Michael Howard, Labour's Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint MP, former Liberal Democrat minister Sarah Teather MP, Daily Mail columnist Amanda Platell and comedian and television presenter Griff Rhys Jones, who is also president of the campaign group Civic Voice.