16/05/2013 Question Time


David Dimbleby presents from Ipswich. With defence secretary Philip Hammond MP, shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant MP; Charles Kennedy MP, Gillian Tett and Peter Bazalgette.

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in Ipswich, and welcome to Question our audience and our panel,


Conservative Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, Labour's Shadow


immigration Minister, Chris Bryant, former leader of the Liberal


Democrats, Charles Kennedy, award-winning journalist and


assistant editor of the financial Times, Gillian Tett, and the


television producer famous for bringing the brother to our screens


and chairman of arts Council England, Peter Bazalgette. --


question. If there was an EU in-out referendum tomorrow, how would you


vote, and why? I would vote to stay in. I am passionate that we need to


be in the European Union. There was a survey recently, done by the


Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, which found that 95% of businesses in


Suffolk thought that the EU was essential to them doing future


business. And I really worry, when I look round. It is not just the


economic benefits of being associated with the largest trading


bloc in the world. It is also the fact that we gain influence


elsewhere. And I really worry that if we were to cut ourselves off from


the European Union we would end up being like a tired old spinster on


the side of Europe. We would be completely irrelevant politically.


And there is a bit of me, also, that says Ash maybe this is idealistic -


but in my lifetime, Spain was a dictatorship, Portugal was a


dictatorship by most of the countries of the east of Europe were


dictatorships. And all of those countries in my father's lifetime


went to war with one another. I am not claiming it is the European


Union alone that has stopped war, but I do think it means we have our


battles in the chamber in Brussels and Strasbourg, rather than on the


battlefields. And that can only be good for a consummate that has been


at war for centuries. And what about a reverend? The whole argument about


the referendum, is it an unnecessary luxury? What do you make of Philip


Hammond saying that he would vote out? Well, he is wrong.What about a


referendum at all? I am not ultimately opposed to one.


Ultimately being what, when you are an old man? I am an old man already.


The only party that has ever given a referendum is the Labour Party.


Liberal Democrats offered one. there has been one in my lifetime


and that was when there was a Labour government. The law has been changed


in the last couple of years so that if there is a big change to the


European Union there will be a referendum, and I am happy about


that. I relish the idea of referendums. Do I think it is a


priority now to have a referendum? No, I do not. Do I think it makes


any sense whatsoever to say that in four years time we will have a


referendum? No, I think that is bonkers. It means you wave a sword


of Damocles over the British economy, uncertainty, instability,


nobody knowing whether they should be investing in the United Kingdom


for four years. What induced you to tell the world this week that if


there were a referendum tomorrow you would vote out? Well, I was asked a


question. It took you a long time to answer it. By a very persistent


interviewer, about a specific and hypothetical circumstance. If there


were an in-out referendum tomorrow. But there is not going to be one.


Your Prime Minister refuses to answer. There is a very good reason


why there is not going to be. will come to that. Your leader said


he would not answer a hypothetical. The Foreign Secretary said he would


not answer a hypothetical. What kind of loyalty is it for you to say you


would vote out? I was asked a question and answered in a


straightforward way. If there was a referendum tomorrow, how would you


vote? I prefaced my answer by saying that there will not be a referendum


tomorrow. My strong preference would be that we have a mandate to


negotiate with the European Union and to see what we can achieve, and


then put the question to the British people, which is something, by the


way, that only the Conservative party is prepared to do. The Labour


Party and the Liberal Democrats party do not trust the British


people and would not allow this question to be put to them. What is


so bad about the way that things are now that would lead you to vote to


get out, and what is it that you would want to see happen to get you


to change your mind and vote yes? do not believe the status quo is


acceptable, but I do not think the status quo is going to be on offer.


The changes that have happened in Europe, the problems in the


eurozone, mean that Europe is going to change. There is no question


about that. The only question is whether we can help to shape that


change in a way that makes Europe a more palatable proposition for the


British people, and a way that makes Europe work better for Britain in


the things that really matter to people here. What is it you want to


see? The things that matter are economic growth, jobs, prosperity,


ability to control our borders. would you change? What the


government is doing now is undertaking what we call a


competencies review. We are going right the way through everything


government as, looking at the level of interference we get from


Brussels, where we need to seek to repatriate powers, where we need to


seek to make muscles more flexible. If we win the next election, we will


have a mandate to negotiate. When we have negotiated, so we know what it


is we are asking people to be in or out of, we will put the question to


the British people and we will trust the electorate to make the decision.


So at the moment, in other words, you are like a chef preparing a menu


which you are not yet prepared to show. But you will show us. We know


we want a European Union which is more outward facing, more flexible,


more competitive. These are generalisations. What does that


mean? Let's hear from the audience. I broadly agree with Mr Hammond. I


think there is no doubt that we have seen in the last few years a more


diverging, more coming together in Europe, but it seems to be more now


political, and it probably has to be because of the problems with the


euro. The only way forward out of that is for more political coming


together. As we have seen with the march of UKIP recently, there are a


lot of people very uncertain in the general public about whether that is


the right way to go. I think the Tory approach now, of let's just


have a renegotiation when what we really want is a country out of


Europe, the time is right and I think it is a reasonable policy to


get it on the table. You see the Tories as saving the electorate from


UKIP? I would not quite put it that way. We would have to say Nigel


Farage has certainly brought to the table a lot of the discussion in the


general public that we had not been hearing so much in Westminster of


late. It has got it back on the agenda and I think we need to go


through. It has been 30 years since the last referendum. That decide


once and for all where we are going with this.


If I was asked how I would vote today, I would vote to stay in,


although I appreciate the issue is becoming more tangled. Three


reasons. Firstly, 50% of UK trade is with the European Union. Secondly,


the city of London would find it very hard to maintain a pre-eminent


position outside the European Union. To think the French and Germans


would let the city carry on dominating Euro trade would be like


asking the Americans to have their financial centre in Toronto. It will


not happen. Thirdly, the point that Chris raised about influence on the


world stage is very important. The Americans made clear, in public and


in private, that the UK without being part of Europe would simply


not punch its weight. What do you make of the impact of people like


Philip Hammond, who have said that they would leave if the vote was


tomorrow? Has it had a destabilising effect, as some are claiming?


had a destabilising effect on the debate. But I think he raises an


important point. Vince Cable was saying it is damaging already.


Sunday? Yes. If you talk to people in the city of London it raises


questions about where people will locate business in future. But I


would agree that Europe is changing at the moment. The question was, if


you were asked today how you would vote, the reality is that Europe is


at a crossroads right now. It is like a bad marriage. It is going to


make up or break up. If they have to make a decision about the euro, and


it will not work unless they come together more closely, or do not.


am delighted Philip Hammond would say we should come out of the EU,


but I do not understand why you are indecisive as a party. You should


give us a choice. We are asking for that. We are in a coalition


government. We do not have the ability to do that now. We could not


get it agreed as part of a government programme. Why is it that


Nigel Farage is doing so well saying this when you are not giving us that


choice? Are you powerless? The truth about coalition government is that


you have two agree a programme that you both agree on. But don't you


want to be elected next time, not be in a coalition? That is why people


are voting UKIP. They are saying, we want out now, and the Conservatives


are not giving it to us. With respect, the Conservatives have


published a draft Bill. I don't want paper, I want out. The Prime


Minister never even asked the leader of the Liberal Democrats whether he


could have a bill in this Parliament. If you were in the


chamber yesterday and you heard what the leader of the Liberal Democrats


said, you would know his position. You have been misleading. The prime


Mr never asked the Liberals for such a bill. This Prime Minister is not


master of his own destiny, or of his own party. He was forced to do it.


Who would you like to see lead the Tories? I think Michael Gove is a


good choice. I think there are a view good choices. What about Boris


Johnson? Why not Boris? We have a Liberal Democrat who has not spoken


yet. Charles Kennedy. Just keeping my counsel. What a shame for these


poor Conservatives. It is these beastly, horrible, violent Liberal


Democrats that are messing everything up. In case you missed


it, 100 Tory MPs voted against and Cameron last night in the House of


Commons. But that has nothing to do with it. It is all Nick Clegg's


fault. They must think you are stupid if you are going to buy that


line. How would I vote if there was a referendum tomorrow?


Unequivocally, positively, enthusiastically, for Britain to


stay in Europe. And one of the reasons I would do so is because


Europe needs reform. It is at a crossroads, and it could fragment,


to everybody's even greater instability than we are experiencing


at the moment. All it could get its act together. But it will not get


its act together if a big player like Britain decides we are going to


take our ball and go home. We should use our influence and credibility.


The other point is this - it is a pleasure as always to contribute to


this panel on Question Time in Ipswich. The last but one time I


contributed, I was in Inverness. Inverness and Ipswich are both part


of a union, a very successful one, called the United Kingdom.


Conservative party's full title, the Conservative and Unionist party.


There is not a hypothetical referendum going on within the UK,


folks. There is one happening in Scotland at the moment, and if we


lose that referendum it will be the end of the United Kingdom. I would


suggest to our Conservative colleagues in coalition that the


Conservative and Unionist party should worry about getting base camp


established first, maintaining the union that is the United Kingdom,


and then worry about reforming the union that is Europe. Some more from


our audience. Shook the government be spending so much time talking


about an EU referendum when there are so many promising things in the


Queens speech? Advances in technology, sources of new growth in


the country. Peter Bazalgette? distrust the SERPSty. I say bring it


on and let's have the discussion. APPLAUSE


There are about 100 Conservative MPs. If you say Europe to them,


their eye balls start to roam and they foam at the mouth. There are


people madly in favour. I don't know what the questioner thinks, but I'm


not sure if we had a referendum we could hear the arguments. What I


find fascinating about the European issue and the political scene is


that it really is a one point in which people get ideologically


passionate. No-one's arguing about the fiscal problems with such anger.


It's a bit like the guns and the republican part any many America,


people foam at the mouth on both sides. Faye Miller, do you want to


answer the question that Peter Bazalgette asked? Yes, 2017 is


ridiculously late for a referendum. It's not only shutting the stable


door after the horse has bolted, it's already gone around the field a


few times, hasn't it? And we haven't heard anything from David Cameron


about what the benchmarks are for renegotiation, so we can only base


our view on what we know now which isn't relevant.


Yes. You, there, on the fourth row from the back? If the UK leaves the


EU, and then Scotland leaves the UK, where does that leave us? England,


Wales and Northern Ireland? What shall we be called? In the


independent Republic of Ipswich! The gentleman at the back there?


APPLAUSE I've never known an election


campaign to start two-and-a-half years before it's ever been there,


chucking out the fishes, hoping everybody's going to run over here.


Let's concentrate on this country, try and get back opt path that we


have and keep saying I'm on the right track justlet isn't good


enough, I'm afraid. This gentleman is right. There are more pressing


issues than this, but we cannot avoid this debate because the


eurozone Crill crisis means that Europe, after the German elections,


are was of the way, is going to have to the debate how it restructures to


make the eurozone work and it's in our interest, even though we are not


in it, that the euro survives and prospers. We can stand on the side


Lymes of that debate and then we'll be left facing a stark choice of


whether to join in something that may be a much closer Yahoo! Onion


than the British people are prepared to accept, or we can try and shape


the debate around possibly a multitiered Europe where there are


things that can join in the single market, cooperation where it makes


sense, without having to be dragged into all this ever closer political


fiscal union. All this jargon, what does it mean? Ees's talk about


something practical. You would never vote no. Noim not going to vote to


leave the European Union. Whatever. If the European... You are asking a


hypothetical question. The European arrest warrant - the Conservatives


want us to leave the European arrest warrant and Europol and eurojust,


the organisations that ended up getting that man arrested in Spain


the other day and brought back here, unluke Ronnie Biggs years ago who


could live in Spain on the Costa Dell crime for years. That's going


off the subject? It's not.Growth and the economy, the jobs. The first


things I mentioned. All right. As you say, the election campaign


started here and we'll be stopping on this in a moment, but let me just


move on. The lady on the left? grew up in a country that didn't


aassociationiate with the rest of the world for a lot of its history.


Where was that? I was brought up in the US. Yes?


And one of the problems is that we didn't get with the rest of the


world until late on to the war. In other decisions, we seemed to stand


out. We've noticed from the current government that they don't take care


of the people that are in their country very well. And now they want


to get out from another group that they are not getting along very well


with. We are marginalising a whole bunch of people over a period of


time. Becoming an isolation isolationist tendency place? If the


Conservatives continue along the path that they are in, yes.


Thank you very much. I think we will go on. Apologies to those who still


have your hands up. Before I do, you can join in the debate if you are


to listeners to BBC Radio Five Live who are hearing Question Time for


the first time without having to see our faces which must be a blessed


relief! Welcome to you all, I hope you are enjoying it. A question from


Gillan Scott, please? Was Margaret Hodge right to describe Google's tax


arrangements as evil? Gillian Tett? I think the practices from Google


were unethical, but they were legal and unfortunately, what Governments


need to accept is, if they are going to complain about what groups like


Google have done, they should look to themselves and their own tax


regime. The issue of cross border tax avoidance, not evasion, but


avoidance, is a very big one. It's been growing for a number of years.


Frankly, without real cooperation, it's going to be very hard, if not


impossible, for any one Government to ever tackle it. If you ever


wanted a reason why things like the European Union, why international


cooperation matters, something like Google's tax story is absolutely a


good example of that. All the sound and fury from Margaret Hodge,


justified? I think it's right that she's raising the issue. People


should have been talking about this four or five years ago.


Unfortunately though, it's not good enough to simply point the finger at


the companies, you should be looking at the Governments too. Chris




I think Margaret Hodge has done a brilliant job at revealing some of


what has been going on and putting people on the spot. I worry. Today I


saw her today starting the evidence and she was effectively say, please


don't lie to us and that's been a worrying trend that people have


given evidence to Parliament which is not about whether they are lying


to me, but whether they are lying to the country, you know, and I think


that that is a really worrying development. People should tell the


truth. Of course, I understand that businesses try to be as tax


official, that's what they call it, as possible. That's their legal duty


actually. But, we all know that Google's doing business here, we all


know that Amazon's doing business here, they can't pretend not to have


any business here and therefore not pay any taxes. Frankly, that is the


version of shirking that is going on in this country and we need to


expose it and change the law, we need to make sure we do that jointly


with other countries. There's one bit that I tried to deal with, which


was the overseas territories that are British, like the vinyling


Islands and Turks and Caicos where they have virtually no tax area at


all. When they wanted to borrow money and needed my permission, I


said you can't have it unless you are going to diversify your tax base


so you can't be a tax haven any more. The new Government let them


borrow as they wanted? Government should be making the


rules very clear now going forward and clamp down strongly on companies


that evade or avoid. To go back retrospectively... HMRC needs to


answer in this, but where Parliament can expose something like that,


Government can move in and change the rules. But it does have an


effect, because Starbucks, for example, has been losing custom and


is now less popular than it was. don't go there any more. Really?No.


That must make a big difference to them. Nobody buys my books on Amazon


either! You, there? We need to ask ourselves


why a company is trying to avoid paying tax, is it because the taxes


are too high? Maybe we should think about lowering their taxes and they


will be less likely to try to avoid paying them? It's an international


law issue as well. The EU, you can move an office to Dublin, Ireland,


in the EU, and then save taxes. That does need to be fixed


internationally. I'm not sure Margaret Hodge is right to call


Google eel because they are not breaking the law, but it's very


worrying. I have to tell you, small arts and cultural organisations pay


�1. 6 billion tax a year and if they can pay that amount of tax, when


they are under enormous pressure and doing a wonderful job for our


quality of life, I don't see why Google couldn't pay a bit more tax


but we'll have to fix it generally and internationally.


APPLAUSE I've got a small business myself,


very small, less than ten people, but if there's I don't know, �10 out


wrong with the tax I'm paying, HMRC jump on it straightaway, there's no


way out of it. I don't understand how they couldn't see the millions


and where they should have been. say very small. Companies with ten


employees with big business in the economy as a whole. They must be the


majority, mustn't they? Possibly. We are not paying that much tax!


Assuming you do pay the tax you have to, I hope you Stu will be, if you


know what I mean? ! Yes. The gentleman there? What would be


the situation if I was to sit back and say I have an office in Dublin,


as a self-employed person, HMRC wouldn't take that from myself, they


would sit back and suddenly I would be sitting in doing longer than two


months in jail. Why is it different for a company that size or for


myself? Philip Hammond? The British people have a strong sense of


fairness, what's right and what's wrong. At the margins, there might


be some issues, but when they see a company turns over billions and


paying no tax, they sure as hell know that that is wrong. We have got


to tackle it at two levels. We have got to make sure that companies pay


tax somewhere, first of all, because seem of the companies are moving


money around the world so they don't pay any tax anywhere. Secondly,


we've got to make sure, and this is something that we have to discuss


internationally, we have to make sure there is an agreed way in an


Internet-based world, of deciding where the profits of companies


properly belong and who should be taxing what so that they are proper


and fair shares for the companies and the countries in which the


companies do business. The Prime Minister has made it clear that that


agenda is going to be one of his main themes at the G8 next month


where we'll be hosting in Northern Ireland the world's biggest


economies leaders and sorting out international tax evasion and the


way in which we share tax revenues internationally, including making


sure that developing countries get their fair share of the tax that is


generated from operations in their countries. E U could... Last time I


checked, the Cayman Islands was not in the EU. But Ireland is. The man


in the middle? If we have known about this problem and issue for


four or five years, as the panel said, why haven't we been able to


deal with it ourselves and at least try and clamp down? Four or five or


ten or 20? Five years ago, I took part in a debate on this at a


festival with Christian Aid and another group and it was very


sparsely attended. People weren't interested. The good news about what


we are talking about today is that if there is now, as Philip Hammond


said, an attempt by Governments to address the issue and get more tax,


that may go some way to plugging the big fiscal black hole.


The key word "evil", do you think it was "evil" of Google to avoid


playing British -- paying British tax and pay a small amount in


Ireland instead I'm concerned that I'm the guru on "evil"? ! Moral


arbiter tonight? ! My God, we are in trouble! It's an interesting point


and goes beyond the issue, but, you know, we can all cite examples of


politicians using irresponsible language, inflammatory language,


whether inside the House of Commons or out there on the street, although


there's laws that can control you in terms of what you can and cannot say


on the street. On the other hand, there is a responsible role for any


politician to use language in a way which grabs people's attention and


puts perhaps a moral dimension into an issue that needs to be there. The


use of this world "evil" in this context you could argue either way,


but it's certainly done that. The interesting thing about the events


at the committee was the extent to which the chap from Google was


having a particularly hard time because the committee, particularly


the chair, was able to cite all this evidence which came from


whistleblowers within the organisation. That, in a way,


although not ideal for the whistleblower, or for the rest of


us, Philip Hammond's point is correct, there is an innate sense of


fair play, not least amongst the employees who don't like what's been


going on, and following on from this point about chasing it up, I don't


think it's disputed, the figures from the experts show that for every


extra pound that you invest in trying to track down people not


paying tax, you get about �9 back. To be fair to the Government,


they've just put in �150 million extra over the next couple of years


and that should yield, if this theory works, in excess of �1


billion coming into into the coffers from all of us to benefit from at


the moment so it's not all doom and gloom. This use of the word evil is


a play on words. Google has 70-80% of the search traffic, a dominant


position in its market, it's a brilliant public facility, but with


that dominant position comes a lot of public responsibility. It's going


to have to do a lot better if it's going to fulfil its public


responsibility in return for its dominant position in the market


place. It's a competition issue as It is a big conscious -- conscience


issue. Companies are taking from society by giving very little back.


The attitude we have seen this morning from the select committee is


that we do not care. Philip made a good point about developing


countries. I think the figure is around about $160 billion a year


which is lost from tax avoidance in developing countries. You think that


is going to be affecting healthcare and education. People's lives in


some countries are not going to be as good as they could be. Do you


think it is legitimate for countries to make the tax arrangements as lean


as they can? They are running big corporations and have shareholders


and they want to make a profit so they can expand. Is that reasonable,


or should they say, I think we will volunteer, in effect, to pay tax in


Britain because we do business there? That is why it is important


there is an international agreement. The G8 thing is important. There are


180 charities in this country working under one banner because


they realise it is really important and it will make a huge difference


if we can do something about it, but it needs government is working


together or it is never going to work. Do you think it was evil of


Google to behave as they do? Pope has described it as a sin and


he does not like it, so maybe, yes. The Pope? Yes.You can give way to


the Pope, Charles Kennedy, as our moral arbiter of autumn night.


did notice today that one leading conservative Euro-sceptic, when this


private members bill came top of the ballot, he said this proves that God


is a Euro-sceptic. And as a Catholic I thought, surely if anyone in the


universe is left that still believes in the Treaty of Rome it has to be


the Almighty. A question from Matthew Pickhaver. More than 656,000


people have signed an online petition opposing the redefinition


of marriage. Is it not time the government rethought its plan?


are ahead of the game. This is coming up in the House of Commons on


Monday and Tuesday, a debate on gay marriage and whether it should


become legalised. Peter Bazalgette. It is row simple. Gay people and


straight people should have exactly the same rights to marriage, civil


partnership, anything else. And it is a perfect the clear proposition.


One more thing, I have a very clear memory from just before the last


general election. I was in the West End of London and I met Chris Bryant


in the street and we had a quick chat. He was buying a suit because


he was about to have his civil partnership. This suit.Very nice.


Just before his civil partnership, crisp Bryant was a very happy man,


and that is good enough for me. -- Chris Bryant. That is not quite the


issue, is it rest of the issue is marriage, as opposed to civil


partnership, which is already the law. And the 650,000 people who are


signing this are against the concept of marriage. Direct replies that. I


made my position clear in the first answer. Gay people and straight


people should have exactly the same rights. The reason I mention the


story about Chris is that that is what makes people happy, and we want


people to be happy. At the risk of sounding boring, like an old married


couple, I would thoroughly agree. It is a personal choice. You have an


interesting view about old married couples! There may be 650,000 people


who signed the petition, but how many more people in the country are


in favour of gay marriage? As a Muslim, I still think people


should have an equal right in society, whatever your religion is.


You are living in the 20th century, the modern world. You can live


side-by-side without having any differences, and get along with each


other. At the end of the day, you are going to live and die, and


whatever happens in the after-world, it is for God to decide, not for you


to decide. Are you saying that despite being a Muslim you support


the notion of gay marriage? Yes. I wonder what Jesus would have


thought on the subject. Because Jesus loved everyone. I am sure he


loved gay people, straight people. I have loaned -- known lots of lovely


gay people and lots of horrible heterosexuals. I think it is


disgusting that it is even discussed.


I agree with the gentleman on the left that everyone should be given


equal rights. It does not affect anyone else who is currently in a


marriage if someone else decides to get married. It is not about


redefining marriage, but about opening it up to all people. If you


are in a marriage, it does not affect you. If you are signing a


petition to suggest you do not agree with it, fantastic. But there will


be an awful lot more people that support it. Well, I have not been a


supporter of the same-sex marriage bill. But I am resigned to the fact


that I am in a minority and that it will pass through Parliament. I


think before we had civil partnership, people who were in


same-sex relationships suffered some real disability, some real


disadvantage in the way they were treated. And I think the civil


partnership solution has removed those disadvantages. The problem


that many people who object to this change now have is that, contrary to


what the gentleman who spoke last said, this change does redefine


marriage. It means for millions and millions of people who are married,


the meaning of marriage is changed. And there is a real sense of anger


among many people who are married, that the government thinks it has


the ability, any government, thinks it has the ability to change the


definition of an institution like marriage. And that is why the people


who are opposed to this feel so very, very strongly about it.


you are one of them, you feel strongly in that way? I do not feel


strongly about this because I come at it from a point of view of


religious conviction. Many of those who object have strong religious


convictions. I have just never felt that this is what we should be


focusing on. We have civil partnership, which seems to deal


with the very real problem that same-sex couples faced. And it seems


to me that there was no huge demand for this, and we did not need to


spend a lot of parliamentary time and upset vast numbers of people,


vast numbers of people, in order to do this. I just think everybody


should be treated equally under the law. It is very simple.


Incidentally, the government was my version of the bill coming forward


on Monday says that homosexual couples, same-sex couples will be


able to either be in a civil partnership or be married, but


heterosexuals will only be able to form marriage is. I think we should


have both for everybody. It should be exact with the same for


everybody. I have always felt slightly upset when people say this


will completely undermine marriage. The papal nuncio once told me, he


asked me how my wife was, and I said, he is a man. And he said, do


you mean very butch? I said, no, he is a man, I am a homosexual. He


said, you know you will do more damage to this world than climate


change? You laugh, and I laughed at the time because it was a social


engagement. But I just say to some people, who may be passionately


opposed to this move, just wing of how you advance your arguments,


because it can be very, very painful to some people. -- just think of how


you advance your arguments. And to Philip, I would accept your argument


more if you had ever voted for an equal age of consent, for gays to be


allowed to adopt, for gays in the military to be able to pursue their


career, or for that matter if you had voted for civil partnerships.


There have been 23 votes since you have been in Parliament on these


issues and on 12 of them you have not even bother to turn up, on 11


you have voted against. There were a number of people applauding what


Philip Hammond said. Would any of you like to speak? Speak fearlessly,


because this is an open debate. have a lot of gay friends, and I


have never in my life had anything, any views against people being day.


That is society. But I believe that marriage is something that possibly


we are playing around with a little bit too much. Marriage, and I could


be wrong here, is described in the Bible, a book that has been around


for a lot more years than openly gay people, described in the Bible as


where a man and a woman come together. It is a religious matter,


for you? Personally, yes. Me and my wife, coming in front of God and


being blessed by God with the name of marriage. I don't believe gay


couples should have any different rights to straight couples, but I


kind of think it would be nice to keep a hold of that, the name


marriage. I am religious as well, I used to be a vicar and have married


more people probably than anybody else in the room, if you see what I


mean. I know some very horrible day people, as well, to the lady in the


back. That is a different matter. In the book of Common prayer was


produced in the 16th century and the 17th century, which the Church of


England has used for years, it said one of the reasons for marriage was


neutrals -- mutual support one for another. I suspect that in most


marriages that is as important as bringing up children or anything


else, and I do not see that a gay couple are not as entitled to do


that as anybody else. Why doesn't need to be labelled as marriage? Why


can't a gay couple a civil partnership as where they have come


together? Because we are the same. In the end, it is that thing about


being equal under the law. The thing that changes is that you bind


families together when they can come to that event and celebrate, because


they have bought new suits, or whatever. It is just a really


important part of that binding together of a couple and of


societies. The issue I have is not necessarily whether or not gay


people should be allowed to be married, but there are religious


leaders who are very opposed to it. I know that you were a vicar, but


there are vicars who stop -... They would not wish to marry a gay couple


because of religious beliefs. I do not think there is as much


protection as has been claimed for them, in the sense that had they


opposed marrying a gay couple, people could then come back at them


and say, actually, that is not fair, it is inequality and you should not


be allowed to do that. And so you cannot bring in a bill where it is


OK for them to do it. You are frightened they will not be


protected? My understanding is that there are very sufficient safeguards


in this legislation already. The three of us in the Commons here - I


am with the majority view on the panel, and have no difficulty with


this legislation in principle. I think the conduct of the debate in


Parliament, and this is not about party politics, I think it has to be


reflective of the very strong and sincere views that an awful lot of


people in this country have, and the genuine anxieties. Whether it is up


-- whether it is in a professional sense, like clerics, or whether it


is individual heterosexual couples who feel the equilibria of their


life, they're up ringing their attitudes are being rocked by all of


this. How do you reflect that if you are going to change the law? In the


process of changing the law, we have to offer the reassurance that we


can. The case about clerics who may be put in a difficult legal


position, we have to get messages of reassurance which are there, out.


But I hope that one day, maybe beyond our lifetimes in this room to


night, this issue, historically, will be looked at a way that we now


look at votes for women, or the abolition of slavery.


APPLAUSE And when the change comes, we won't


apply the pressment of time and say, how awful were the people that


apposed it, but we may understand better that when you have a huge


social change for people, it's hardly surprising it will cause


distress. Another couple of questions in, if I


can. Mary Hullis, please? I can I just come back on that, please?


Briefly? The 66,000 people have signed a petition for gay marriage


and 600, 656,000 people, that's the largest petition for years. But...y


can I finish and make it clear. It's not about equality but it's about


confusing equality with uniformity, right. All people are equal. I


believe, as a Christian, that we are all equal. We are all equal in the


eyes of God, I quality sinners in the eyes of God. The word "marriage"


means, union of one man, one woman exclusion you havely. It's about


celebrating the differences between men and women, complimentary but


fundamental differences and about the potential for procreation. Love


and commitment is an important part of marriage but you can't legislate


for that or measure that. You have to legislate for things like where


the law is concerned with consumation and about divorce laws


and you cannot redefine something that is a creation ordinance, you


might as well try and redefine day or night. I'll be very quick. I


won't argue about religion because it sounds to me as though you know


rather more about religion than I do. What I will point out is that


your statisticical point is not valid. 656,000 people care to vote


about it. Take the sentiment in this room tonight, it's against you


actually. APPLAUSE


All right. The points have been made. A question from Mary Hullis,


please? Do you believe that the new evidence about possible gas attacks


in Syria crosses the red line for intervention? This is the news BBC


carried today that gas has been used in Syria. President Obama said that


was the red line for him. How should this change things and should it


lead to intervention? I would like you to be fairly swift in answering


this because I want to get another question in, if I can. Chris Bryant?


I'm not in favour of intervention. I'm also wanting Britain to be very,


very reluctant about military intervention that puts British


troops in harm'sway in this. I do worry about the weapons of mass


destruction and I understand that many people in the country may feel


very troubled that we are going through a story that we went through


ten years ago. But, I do worry that, in a situation where you have got a


Civil War, effectively, the danger is, some of that mightlet get into


the hands of people that we don't want it in their hands. I feel very


angry with the Russians because the Russian position on Syria's been


disgraceful for more than a year and if they joined the international


community, and China, a year ago, we might have been able to act in a way


that prevented Assad doing the terrible things he's doing in that


country without having to think about the dangers that we are facing




Do you think the time has now come, Philip Hammond, to arm the rebels in


Syria? ?y on that specific question, we have certainly not taken off the


table the possibility of choosing to arm the rebels and we have said that


we'll seek an amendment of the E U arms embargo so we have the flexible


to use in response if necessary to what is a fast-changing situation.


Are you influenced by the evidence of gas? With the greatest of respect


to the BBC, I've seen some video foot footage on the Six o'clock


news, I haven't seen any more detail than that. We have had some quite


persuasive information coming out of Syria over the last few weeks


suggesting that gas may have been used but haven't yet had what


amounts to concrete evidence of the use usage of chemical weapons. We


need to apply a high standard of proof here and we need to be


automobile to go to the international community with


evidence that stands up. All of us, remember what happened in 2003 in


Iraq. No-one wants to set hares running, we have to make sure if we


go out there and say this, what would be a war crime, has been


committed through the use of chemical weapons, we have to be sure


that we have hard evidence, not a sexed up dossier. We have to have


hard evidence. So I don't think that I have seen yet evidence which is


sufficiently strong to we are suede frankly a very sceptical British


people. We know from survey after survey that the British people, as


Chris has reflected, are very, very wary about an engagement in Syria,


even though they are, I'm sure, appalled by the shocking events


there and the terrible treatment that's being meted out to the Syrian


population by the regime. Charles Kennedy? Well, the evidence


is inconclusive. That's for sure. It's good to hear my colleague speak


in in these sombre terms, it's a hell of a sombre issue this, and


it's a lot better than the way things were ten years ago. I


remember what it felt like in the House of Commons being the only


party leader questioning the Iraq strategy and getting scant support


from either of the other two parties at the time. We've all learnt


lessons. Perhaps most importantly, the American public and their


politicians have learnt the lesson of George Bush and I was much


encouraged enyou think what Donald Rumsfeld was like as Defence


Secretary, the man who said "stuff happens", that was his analytical


perceptiveness about Iraq at the time. His successor in office today


working to Obama, Chuck Hagel, has made categorically clear that


whatever needs to be done, if this is the red line fanned it has been


crossed, and these are two very big ifs at the moment, for the reasons


the Defence Secretary just pointed out, the Americans, and the same for


us, are no are not going to do anything that are outside the


parameters of legality. Easy wish to God we'd heard that ten years ago


from George Bush. We are still living with the consequences of


Guantanamo and illegality. It looks serious but we must look again


before we leap and I couldn't agree more - if we can get particularly


the other significant members of the Security Council at the UN on board


and get inspectors into Syria, that has to be the first concrete


political steps. You, Sir? I don't believe actually


this is about Syria itself because I don't believe that Assad has woken


up one day and decided to butcher up his people. I believe this is about


resources that come from the Middle East, Iran, Iraq and so on and so


forth, the Western world and the rest of the world realise that. I


really think we shouldn't engage in Syria, we should be out of it.


APPLAUSE The woman at the back there?


I don't believe it's necessarily helpful to compare the such weighs


in Syria with Iraq. Iraq wasn't justified. Our involvement in Syria


perhaps is. Gillian Tett? The situation is very


embarrassing for President Obama because he drew the red line with


the chemical weapons thinking it wouldn't be breach and it has been.


Do you believe it has been? certainly looks that way, as Philip


Hammond said, we need to see the hard evidence first. The one thing


that's clear is it's going to get more embarrassing for the British


and American Governments as you go forward, because you have had


Western leaders sitting indecisively on the side Lymes, this is


spiralling town a wider regional conflict and there won't be any easy


answers at all -- sidelines. Peter Bazalgette? We can only go into


Syria if we have international agreement. We didn't have it with


Iraq, we had it with Bosnia, that's what we need. Until we have


agreement from Russia, we can't go APPLAUSE


You, Sir, briefly? Just to pick up on Charles Kennedy's point, are the


Assad regime ever going to allow international observers into Syria?


I think that... We must insist on it. The international community must


insist upon it. But how?But Assad will have to go. Of course. We'll


move on. Just to end on a completely different note, but equally serious,


Susan Gardner has a question, please? As a woman over 50, is my


best way of getting on television to be on the Question Time audience?


LAUGHTER I don't know whether it's your best


chance but you 've certainly succeeded? ! Bazalgette, you are the


former television man and know how it works? The first thing I would


like to say is, Susan, could you introduce me to your agent because


clearly you should have a future career in television and things are


moving in your favour because I think people are now aware of the


injustice of not having older women properly represented on screen. I


think it will change and I think it should change and Susan, you will be


the first person we'll call when the time comes. Why do you think it's


happened? Why is there this absence of women? Because historically


television has been run by men. you? Like you as well.I've never


run anything in television, you have run some of the biggest things, you


brought us Big Brother and all sorts of things that people like and some


don't. But your role has been very powerful in television? Well, I was.


I no longer am. I think it has been run by men, yes, like me, and I


think a lot of the people who 've taken the decisions, the men,


thought they needed young women presenting programmes. They were


wrong. It has to change. OK. Pf


APPLAUSE Gillian Tett? I maybe will leave the


politicians out of this debate. You have got to make the running!


would agree. I think the fact that we are having this debate is partly


because older women are becoming more powerful, economically and


politically at the moment, but secondly I've been in America the


last few years it's very striking there that already a lot more female


voices on television who're older. People who may not be familiar to


this audience, but Andrea Mitch Mitch who I believe is in her 60s,


Christine Amanporu, crayty Curick and they are fabulous and I look


forward to seeing you on television. I don't believe that Susan is over


50! Chris, would it matter? ! thinking of standing for Parliament


in Ipswich, Chris! Do either of you two want to say a brief word before


we end? Yes, what a sad note on which to end, really! Right. Our


hour is up. That is our time. Next hour is up. That is our time. Next


week now, going to be in Belfast. The week after that, we are going to


be in London. We have Alan Johnson for Labour in London and the crave


downtonne abbey director, Julian Fellows. The usual rules apply, you


can ring us or apply on the website. -- Downton Abbey. I hope you have


enjoyed listening on Five Live. You can continue the degate with


Question Time extra time. That's how they score in football isn't it?


have no interest in football whatsoever, I won't even pretend.


Penalties! Question Time extra time on Five Live tonight. I hope you


David Dimbleby presents Question Time from Ipswich. On the panel: defence secretary, Philip Hammond MP; shadow immigration minister, Chris Bryant MP; former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Charles Kennedy MP; Financial Times journalist Gillian Tett; and the chair of Arts Council England, Peter Bazalgette.

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