16/05/2013 Question Time


16/05/2013

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,

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Conservative Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, Labour's Shadow

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immigration Minister, Chris Bryant, former leader of the Liberal

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Democrats, Charles Kennedy, award-winning journalist and

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

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television producer famous for bringing the brother to our screens

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

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

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

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

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

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Suffolk thought that the EU was essential to them doing future

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

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economic benefits of being associated with the largest trading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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of Damocles over the British economy, uncertainty, instability,

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nobody knowing whether they should be investing in the United Kingdom

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

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

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

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interviewer, about a specific and hypothetical circumstance. If there

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Party and the Liberal Democrats party do not trust the British

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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government is doing now is undertaking what we call a

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competencies review. We are going right the way through everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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more competitive. These are generalisations. What does that

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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once and for all where we are going with this.

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

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although I appreciate the issue is becoming more tangled. Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Democrats that are messing everything up. In case you missed

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

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

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

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

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Unequivocally, positively, enthusiastically, for Britain to

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

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

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to everybody's even greater instability than we are experiencing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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suggest to our Conservative colleagues in coalition that the

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Conservative and Unionist party should worry about getting base camp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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on and let's have the discussion. APPLAUSE

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

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

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

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

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find fascinating about the European issue and the political scene is

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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APPLAUSE I've never known an election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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the debate around possibly a multitiered Europe where there are

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

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

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

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

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

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hypothetical question. The European arrest warrant - the Conservatives

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

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the organisations that ended up getting that man arrested in Spain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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time. Becoming an isolation isolationist tendency place? If the

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

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

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

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:19:21.:19:31.

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

:19:31.:19:34.

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

:19:34.:19:42.

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

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:19:52.:19:56.

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

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

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

:20:09.:20:13.

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

:20:13.:20:15.

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

:20:15.:20:21.

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

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

:20:25.:20:30.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bryant? APPLAUSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:21:42.:21:47.

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

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

:21:50.:21:54.

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

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

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

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

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was the overseas territories that are British, like the vinyling

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

:22:15.:22:19.

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

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

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

:22:29.:22:31.

borrow as they wanted? Government should be making the

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

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

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

:22:49.:22:55.

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

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

:22:59.:23:05.

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

:23:05.:23:12.

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

:23:12.:23:18.

either! You, there? We need to ask ourselves

:23:18.:23:22.

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

:23:22.:23:27.

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

:23:27.:23:32.

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

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

:23:36.:23:41.

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

:23:41.:23:44.

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

:23:44.:23:47.

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

:23:47.:23:54.

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

:23:54.:23:58.

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

:23:58.:24:01.

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

:24:01.:24:06.

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

:24:06.:24:09.

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

:24:09.:24:16.

APPLAUSE I've got a small business myself,

:24:16.:24:21.

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

:24:21.:24:25.

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

:24:25.:24:29.

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

:24:29.:24:34.

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

:24:34.:24:38.

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

:24:38.:24:45.

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

:24:45.:24:48.

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

:24:48.:24:54.

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

:24:54.:24:58.

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

:24:58.:25:03.

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

:25:03.:25:09.

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

:25:09.:25:16.

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

:25:16.:25:19.

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

:25:19.:25:23.

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

:25:23.:25:26.

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

:25:26.:25:31.

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

:25:31.:25:37.

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

:25:37.:25:40.

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

:25:40.:25:44.

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

:25:44.:25:48.

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

:25:48.:25:52.

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

:25:52.:25:56.

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

:25:56.:26:01.

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

:26:01.:26:05.

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

:26:05.:26:09.

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

:26:09.:26:14.

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

:26:14.:26:18.

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

:26:18.:26:22.

economies leaders and sorting out international tax evasion and the

:26:22.:26:27.

way in which we share tax revenues internationally, including making

:26:27.:26:31.

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

:26:31.:26:39.

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

:26:39.:26:45.

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

:26:45.:26:51.

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

:26:51.:26:54.

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

:26:54.:26:59.

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

:26:59.:27:04.

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

:27:05.:27:07.

festival with Christian Aid and another group and it was very

:27:07.:27:10.

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

:27:10.:27:14.

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

:27:14.:27:17.

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

:27:18.:27:23.

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

:27:23.:27:29.

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

:27:29.:27:34.

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

:27:34.:27:41.

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

:27:41.:27:48.

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

:27:48.:27:55.

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

:27:55.:27:58.

politicians using irresponsible language, inflammatory language,

:27:58.:28:01.

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

:28:01.:28:05.

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

:28:05.:28:11.

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

:28:11.:28:17.

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

:28:17.:28:21.

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

:28:21.:28:26.

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

:28:26.:28:29.

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

:28:29.:28:35.

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

:28:35.:28:39.

having a particularly hard time because the committee, particularly

:28:39.:28:44.

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

:28:44.:28:47.

whistleblowers within the organisation. That, in a way,

:28:47.:28:52.

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

:28:52.:28:55.

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

:28:55.:28:58.

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

:28:58.:29:03.

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

:29:03.:29:08.

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

:29:08.:29:13.

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

:29:13.:29:17.

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

:29:17.:29:21.

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

:29:21.:29:26.

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

:29:27.:29:30.

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

:29:30.:29:39.

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

:29:39.:29:44.

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

:29:44.:29:48.

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

:29:48.:29:51.

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

:29:51.:29:55.

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

:29:55.:29:57.

responsibility in return for its dominant position in the market

:29:57.:30:07.
:30:07.:30:09.

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

:30:09.:30:15.

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

:30:15.:30:18.

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

:30:18.:30:22.

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

:30:22.:30:27.

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

:30:27.:30:33.

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

:30:33.:30:38.

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

:30:38.:30:43.

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

:30:43.:30:46.

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

:30:47.:30:51.

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

:30:51.:30:55.

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

:30:55.:31:00.

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

:31:00.:31:05.

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

:31:05.:31:11.

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

:31:11.:31:14.

180 charities in this country working under one banner because

:31:14.:31:17.

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

:31:17.:31:20.

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

:31:20.:31:26.

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

:31:26.:31:30.

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

:31:30.:31:39.

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

:31:39.:31:45.

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

:31:45.:31:50.

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

:31:50.:31:56.

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

:31:56.:32:03.

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

:32:03.:32:06.

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

:32:06.:32:16.
:32:16.:32:21.

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

:32:21.:32:24.

people have signed an online petition opposing the redefinition

:32:24.:32:31.

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

:32:31.:32:35.

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

:32:36.:32:38.

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

:32:39.:32:45.

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

:32:45.:32:49.

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

:32:49.:32:58.

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

:32:58.:33:02.

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

:33:02.:33:06.

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

:33:06.:33:10.

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

:33:10.:33:20.

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

:33:20.:33:24.

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

:33:24.:33:33.

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

:33:33.:33:37.

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

:33:37.:33:44.

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

:33:44.:33:50.

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

:33:50.:33:55.

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

:33:55.:33:58.

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

:33:58.:34:01.

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

:34:01.:34:08.

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

:34:08.:34:15.

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

:34:15.:34:24.

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

:34:24.:34:27.

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

:34:27.:34:37.

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

:34:37.:34:42.

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

:34:42.:34:47.

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

:34:47.:34:52.

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

:34:52.:34:56.

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

:34:56.:35:01.

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

:35:01.:35:06.

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

:35:06.:35:15.

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

:35:15.:35:22.

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

:35:22.:35:27.

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

:35:27.:35:31.

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

:35:31.:35:34.

disgusting that it is even discussed.

:35:34.:35:37.

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

:35:38.:35:43.

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

:35:43.:35:46.

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

:35:46.:35:51.

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

:35:51.:35:54.

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

:35:54.:35:59.

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

:35:59.:36:09.
:36:09.:36:09.

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

:36:09.:36:14.

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

:36:14.:36:20.

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

:36:20.:36:24.

think before we had civil partnership, people who were in

:36:24.:36:29.

same-sex relationships suffered some real disability, some real

:36:29.:36:33.

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

:36:33.:36:41.

partnership solution has removed those disadvantages. The problem

:36:41.:36:45.

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

:36:45.:36:50.

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

:36:50.:36:55.

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

:36:55.:37:00.

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

:37:00.:37:05.

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

:37:05.:37:11.

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

:37:11.:37:16.

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

:37:16.:37:23.

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

:37:23.:37:29.

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

:37:29.:37:32.

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

:37:32.:37:37.

religious conviction. Many of those who object have strong religious

:37:37.:37:40.

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

:37:40.:37:45.

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

:37:45.:37:50.

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

:37:50.:37:55.

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

:37:55.:37:59.

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

:37:59.:38:08.

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

:38:09.:38:17.

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

:38:17.:38:22.

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

:38:22.:38:25.

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

:38:25.:38:30.

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

:38:30.:38:35.

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

:38:35.:38:38.

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

:38:38.:38:43.

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

:38:43.:38:48.

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

:38:48.:38:53.

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

:38:53.:39:00.

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

:39:00.:39:04.

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

:39:04.:39:10.

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

:39:10.:39:16.

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

:39:16.:39:20.

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

:39:20.:39:26.

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

:39:26.:39:31.

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

:39:31.:39:35.

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

:39:35.:39:41.

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

:39:41.:39:44.

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

:39:44.:39:48.

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

:39:48.:39:52.

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

:39:52.:40:02.
:40:02.:40:03.

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

:40:03.:40:08.

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

:40:08.:40:15.

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

:40:15.:40:22.

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

:40:22.:40:31.

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

:40:31.:40:36.

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

:40:36.:40:41.

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

:40:41.:40:47.

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

:40:48.:40:52.

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

:40:52.:41:00.

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

:41:00.:41:07.

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

:41:07.:41:12.

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

:41:12.:41:15.

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

:41:15.:41:24.

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

:41:24.:41:27.

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

:41:27.:41:33.

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

:41:33.:41:37.

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

:41:37.:41:43.

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

:41:43.:41:47.

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

:41:47.:41:51.

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

:41:51.:41:54.

marriages that is as important as bringing up children or anything

:41:54.:41:58.

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

:41:59.:42:08.

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

:42:08.:42:13.

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

:42:13.:42:18.

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

:42:18.:42:24.

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

:42:24.:42:27.

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

:42:27.:42:33.

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

:42:33.:42:37.

important part of that binding together of a couple and of

:42:37.:42:42.

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

:42:42.:42:45.

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

:42:45.:42:50.

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

:42:50.:43:00.
:43:00.:43:01.

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

:43:01.:43:04.

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

:43:04.:43:07.

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

:43:07.:43:11.

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

:43:11.:43:14.

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

:43:14.:43:20.

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

:43:20.:43:25.

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

:43:25.:43:33.

protected? My understanding is that there are very sufficient safeguards

:43:33.:43:42.

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

:43:42.:43:46.

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

:43:46.:43:50.

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

:43:50.:43:54.

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

:43:54.:44:01.

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

:44:01.:44:07.

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

:44:07.:44:11.

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

:44:11.:44:15.

is individual heterosexual couples who feel the equilibria of their

:44:15.:44:22.

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

:44:22.:44:30.

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

:44:30.:44:33.

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

:44:33.:44:38.

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

:44:38.:44:42.

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

:44:42.:44:48.

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

:44:48.:44:53.

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

:44:53.:45:03.
:45:03.:45:06.

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

:45:06.:45:09.

APPLAUSE And when the change comes, we won't

:45:09.:45:15.

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

:45:15.:45:18.

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

:45:18.:45:21.

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

:45:21.:45:26.

distress. Another couple of questions in, if I

:45:26.:45:35.

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

:45:36.:45:45.
:45:46.:45:48.

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

:45:48.:45:53.

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

:45:53.:45:58.

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

:45:58.:46:01.

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

:46:01.:46:06.

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

:46:06.:46:13.

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

:46:13.:46:18.

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

:46:18.:46:22.

celebrating the differences between men and women, complimentary but

:46:22.:46:26.

fundamental differences and about the potential for procreation. Love

:46:26.:46:29.

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

:46:29.:46:34.

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

:46:34.:46:39.

the law is concerned with consumation and about divorce laws

:46:39.:46:44.

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

:46:44.:46:50.

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

:46:50.:46:53.

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

:46:53.:46:57.

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

:46:57.:47:02.

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

:47:02.:47:07.

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

:47:07.:47:14.

actually. APPLAUSE

:47:14.:47:18.

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

:47:18.:47:22.

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

:47:23.:47:28.

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

:47:28.:47:33.

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

:47:33.:47:38.

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

:47:38.:47:41.

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

:47:42.:47:47.

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

:47:47.:47:54.

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

:47:54.:47:56.

very reluctant about military intervention that puts British

:47:56.:48:02.

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

:48:02.:48:05.

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

:48:05.:48:08.

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

:48:08.:48:14.

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

:48:14.:48:19.

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

:48:19.:48:23.

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

:48:23.:48:27.

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

:48:27.:48:32.

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

:48:32.:48:36.

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

:48:36.:48:39.

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

:48:39.:48:42.

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

:48:42.:48:49.

now. APPLAUSE

:48:49.:48:53.

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

:48:53.:48:59.

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

:48:59.:49:03.

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

:49:03.:49:09.

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

:49:09.:49:14.

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

:49:14.:49:18.

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

:49:18.:49:23.

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

:49:23.:49:28.

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

:49:28.:49:32.

persuasive information coming out of Syria over the last few weeks

:49:33.:49:37.

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

:49:38.:49:44.

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

:49:44.:49:47.

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

:49:47.:49:50.

automobile to go to the international community with

:49:50.:49:58.

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

:49:58.:50:03.

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

:50:03.:50:07.

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

:50:07.:50:10.

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

:50:10.:50:14.

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

:50:14.:50:20.

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

:50:20.:50:23.

sufficiently strong to we are suede frankly a very sceptical British

:50:23.:50:28.

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

:50:28.:50:34.

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

:50:34.:50:39.

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

:50:39.:50:43.

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

:50:43.:50:51.

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

:50:51.:50:58.

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

:50:58.:51:02.

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

:51:02.:51:05.

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

:51:05.:51:09.

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

:51:09.:51:13.

party leader questioning the Iraq strategy and getting scant support

:51:13.:51:17.

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

:51:17.:51:22.

lessons. Perhaps most importantly, the American public and their

:51:22.:51:27.

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

:51:27.:51:30.

encouraged enyou think what Donald Rumsfeld was like as Defence

:51:30.:51:38.

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

:51:38.:51:43.

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

:51:43.:51:48.

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

:51:48.:51:52.

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

:51:52.:51:57.

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

:51:57.:52:00.

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

:52:00.:52:07.

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

:52:07.:52:12.

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

:52:12.:52:17.

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

:52:17.:52:20.

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

:52:20.:52:25.

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

:52:25.:52:29.

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

:52:29.:52:33.

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

:52:33.:52:37.

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

:52:37.:52:42.

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

:52:42.:52:48.

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

:52:48.:52:53.

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

:52:53.:53:00.

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

:53:00.:53:07.

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

:53:07.:53:10.

APPLAUSE The woman at the back there?

:53:10.:53:13.

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

:53:13.:53:19.

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

:53:19.:53:25.

perhaps is. Gillian Tett? The situation is very

:53:25.:53:27.

embarrassing for President Obama because he drew the red line with

:53:27.:53:30.

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

:53:30.:53:34.

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

:53:34.:53:38.

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

:53:38.:53:41.

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

:53:41.:53:47.

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

:53:47.:53:52.

Western leaders sitting indecisively on the side Lymes, this is

:53:52.:53:57.

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

:53:57.:54:03.

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

:54:03.:54:06.

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

:54:06.:54:10.

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

:54:11.:54:18.

agreement from Russia, we can't go APPLAUSE

:54:18.:54:24.

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

:54:24.:54:30.

Assad regime ever going to allow international observers into Syria?

:54:30.:54:35.

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

:54:35.:54:41.

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

:54:41.:54:47.

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

:54:47.:54:51.

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

:54:51.:55:01.
:55:01.:55:06.

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

:55:06.:55:08.

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

:55:08.:55:14.

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

:55:14.:55:17.

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

:55:17.:55:22.

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

:55:22.:55:25.

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

:55:25.:55:29.

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

:55:29.:55:34.

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

:55:34.:55:38.

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

:55:38.:55:43.

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

:55:43.:55:48.

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

:55:48.:55:54.

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

:55:54.:55:59.

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

:55:59.:56:03.

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

:56:03.:56:08.

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

:56:08.:56:12.

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

:56:12.:56:16.

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

:56:16.:56:19.

thought they needed young women presenting programmes. They were

:56:19.:56:27.

wrong. It has to change. OK. Pf

:56:27.:56:28.

APPLAUSE Gillian Tett? I maybe will leave the

:56:28.:56:33.

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

:56:33.:56:37.

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

:56:37.:56:41.

because older women are becoming more powerful, economically and

:56:41.:56:45.

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

:56:45.:56:49.

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

:56:49.:56:53.

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

:56:53.:57:02.

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

:57:02.:57:06.

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

:57:06.:57:10.

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

:57:10.:57:20.
:57:20.:57:21.

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

:57:21.:57:27.

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

:57:27.:57:34.

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

:57:34.:57:38.

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

:57:38.:57:42.

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

:57:42.:57:50.

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

:57:50.:57:58.

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

:57:58.:58:08.
:58:08.:58:09.

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

:58:09.:58:14.

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

:58:14.:58:20.

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

:58:20.:58:24.

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

:58:25.:58:34.

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

:58:34.:58:38.

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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